Teen Residential Treatment for Prescription Pill Addiction

Table of Contents

This Article Discusses the Following: 

  • Definition, types, causes, risks, signs, and symptoms of prescription pills addiction in teens
  • Definition, types, and roles of residential treatment for teens addicted to prescription pills
  • The residential treatment process for teenagers with a prescription pill addiction
  • How to choose the right residential treatment program for teens
  • How to help teenagers suffering from addiction
  • Relevant aftercare and relapse prevention programs in residential treatment for teens with a prescription pill addiction

Teen prescription pill abuse has sharply increased in recent years, pushing several teenagers into addiction. To evade irreversible physical and psychological harm, teenagers with prescription pill use disorders should find help as early as possible.

Of the many treatment options available for this type of addiction, teenage residential addiction treatment is one the most recommended. It is conducted in specialized facilities that offer teenagers safe and supportive environments for successful recovery. Let’s discuss how adolescent residential treatment can help your son or daughter overcome their prescription pill addiction.

What is Prescription Pills Addiction?

Prescription pills addiction can be defined as the compulsive use of prescription pills for reasons other than the prescribed ones, despite severe negative physical, psychological, and behavioral effects. Teenagers addicted to prescription pills usually depend on them to the point of experiencing withdrawal symptoms when usage stops.

Types of Prescription Pills Addiction


Opioids such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Fentanyl are among the most abused prescription pills by teenagers. Classified as agonists and antagonists, opioids attach to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system), blocking pain messages from reaching the brain. Agonists are the most addictive opiates as they replicate endorphins to induce pain-relieving properties and activate different brain parts causing opioid-like effects. When a teenager repeatedly abuses opioids, the Mu receptors in the brain get interrupted, leading to tolerance. Such teenagers are forced to take larger doses to achieve similar effects, pushing the body to become dependent on opioids after a while.

Common signs of teen opioid addiction include mood swings in teenagers, teen shoplifting, constricted pupils, and secretive behavior.


Benzodiazepines are common anti-anxiety pills. They can also be prescribed for insomnia, seizure control, alcohol withdrawal, muscle relaxation, and inducing amnesia. These pills affect the central nervous system, producing muscle relaxation and sedation effects. Benzodiazepines are classified into:

  • Ultra-short acting benzodiazepines such as Triazolam (Halcion) and Midazolam (Versed)
  • Short-acting benzodiazepines such as Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Long-acting benzodiazepines such as Clanozepam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium) and Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)

The above drugs can be chronically abused or intentionally/ accidentally overdosed, mostly in hospital emergency departments. Benzodiazepines can be lethal if consumed with alcohol, even though serious illness or death can still arise from independent usage. Common symptoms of abuse include confusion, slurred speech, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, poor coordination, breathing difficulty, and in worst-case scenarios, coma.


Stimulants are substances that increase central nervous system activity when used. They interact with the norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitter systems leading to, among other effects, increased alertness, energy, and attention. They mostly exist as capsules/pills, powder, and injectable liquids and can be swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected. Common prescription stimulants include Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Adderall. Illicit stimulants available in the market include cocaine, methamphetamine, and bath salts, officially known as synthetic cathinone.

Stimulant addiction arises from misusing the above prescription medications by taking them in ways that are not prescribed and for reasons other than the intended medical purpose (such as to get high), as well as failure to follow the doctor’s instructions (for example, taking frequent or higher doses).

Common stimulant effects include increased physical activity, improved mental and physical performance, exhilaration, self-esteem boost, extended wakefulness, and reduced appetite.

Stimulants can also cause adverse effects such as paranoia, psychosis, hyperthermia, increased cardiovascular risks, panic attacks, seizures, hostility, and violent behavior. Signs of stimulant addiction include:

  • Urges, cravings, and desire to use
  • Taking the drugs in larger doses than the intended one
  • Repeated unsuccessful attempts to tone down usage
  • Spending lots of time to obtain, use or get over the effects of a stimulant
  • Withdrawal
  • Toleranc


Depressants, also known as tranquilizers, slow down the brain or central nervous system activity. They are generally prescribed for sleep disorders and anxiety. Most teenagers who abuse depressants misuse their prescriptions by mixing them with substances such as opioids or taking them without a prescription for a get-high effect. Here are the main classifications of depressants;

  • Barbiturates: Nembutal, Amytal, Seconal
  • Phenobarbital: Benzodiazepines such as Librium, Xanax and Valium and non-benzodiazepines such as zolpidem (Ambien) and Zaleplon (Sonata).

Common signs of depressant abuse include slurred speech, poor coordination, fatigue, shallow breathing, disorientation, and seizures. Depressant withdrawals may cause weakness, nausea, insomnia, high body temperature, agitation, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions.


Like depressants, sedatives also slow down brain activity, making people feel more relaxed. They modify specific nerve communications in the central nervous system by upping gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity levels in the brain. They are mostly prescribed for people with sleep disorders and anxiety and can also be used as general anesthetics. Note that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulates the production and sale of sedatives because of their addictive nature. Examples include opioids such as Percocet, hypnotics such as Zolpidem, and barbiturates such as phenobarbital (Luminal).

Signs of sedative dependency include frequent usage, taking higher doses to achieve the same effect, and feeling unable to stop usage. People dependent on sedatives experience severe physical and mental withdrawal symptoms such as inability to sleep, increased anxiety, irritability, seizures, and physical illness.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Pill Addiction in Teens

Prescription pill addiction can manifest physically, psychologically, and behaviorally.

Physical symptoms: A puffy, swollen face, poor hygiene, bloodshot/glazed eyes, changes in appearance, extreme exhaustion, rapid weight loss/ gain, extreme hyperactivity, difficulty staying focused, cold or sweaty palms, shaking arms, anxiety, paranoia, fidgeting, irritability and small track marks on legs and arms.

Behavioral Symptoms: Stealing, avoiding eye contact, absenteeism from work/school, irresponsible actions, making excuses, outright lying, isolation from close ones, withdrawal from classroom participation, poor school performance, and resisting feedback or discipline.

Psychological symptoms: There are a few psychological symptoms of prescription pill addiction. They include spectrum disorders, seizures, memory loss, and nutrition deficiencies.

Causes and Risk Factors of Prescription Pill Addiction

Most teenagers abuse prescription pills to feel good or high, relax, increase alertness, ease pain, relieve tension, and experiment with their mental effects. Others also use them to be accepted by their peer circles. Common risk factors include the following:

Peer Influence: Teenagers whose friends or colleagues abuse prescription medications are likely to take up the habit and misuse prescription pills, leading to dependence.

Biology: Several lines of research have shown that genes influence substance abuse. Therefore, teenagers from families with a history of prescription pill abuse are more vulnerable to addiction owing to certain inherited genes. Even though vulnerability does not equal outright addiction, teenagers with such inherited genes should still be careful with their choices.

Mental Health: Teenagers with mental health conditions such as Teen anxiety and depression are likely to get addicted to prescription medications, given that the associated brain changes may enhance their rewarding effects.

Age: Teenagers are more vulnerable to prescription drug abuse or addiction because their prefrontal cortices, responsible for emotional regulation and rational decision-making, are not fully developed yet.

Types of Treatment Programs for Teens

Residential Treatment for Teens

Teen residential treatment is the highest level of care for adolescents aged 13-17 struggling with substance abuse, and takes place in specialized residential facilities. This program provides teenagers with round-the-clock care and support from mental health and addiction experts. Our team uses various evidence-based therapy methods to treat addiction, including treatment options like teen cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and teen dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), holistic therapy approaches like teen art therapy, music therapy, and yoga, and recreational activities like hiking and exercise to help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms.

At Key Healthcare, we have specifically designed residential treatment centers to help teenagers with serious mental health and substance use disorders reach their full potential and live healthy, productive lives. Your teenager will enjoy a secure, structured environment for faster recovery and skill acquisition.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

We offer a teen intensive outpatient program (IOP) for teenagers battling mental health and addiction challenges such as youth prescription pill addiction. This program offers a safe and supportive environment where participants learn healthy coping skills and work on their self-awareness. Your teen will also learn to build a strong foundation for recovery and learn how to manage their emotions.

Individual Therapy

Individual teen therapy is one of the most-applied treatment approaches for teen substance abuse. It is done through one-on-one meetings with therapists, lasting 50-60 minutes. As teenagers discuss their issues, therapists help them understand their feelings and thought patterns, develop healthy coping strategies and identify possible underlying issues. At Key Healthcare, we offer cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy as part of our individual therapy programs. Our professional counselors help teenagers lower their guard and learn from different experiences.

Group Therapy

As the name suggests, teen group therapy is administered to groups of teenagers facing the same issues, such as prescription pills addiction. At Key Healthcare, we offer this type of treatment to groups of eight to nine teens, providing them with a safe and supportive space to become more self-aware, cope with issues and grow resilient. We also teach them important life skills such as conflict resolution, problem-solving, and communication.

Our therapists start every session by introducing the topic and providing an overview of what is to be covered, after which every group member shares relevant feelings and experiences with the guidance and support of the therapist. During the session, participants get resources and tools to help them positively change their lives and develop healthy coping skills.

 Family Therapy

Teen family therapy is a unique treatment approach targeting the entire family. It helps family members understand and resolve distressing issues, develop healthier relationships, learn new communication strategies, and work together to improve their child’s well-being and health. At Key Healthcare, we organize weekly meetings between teens, their family members, and therapists, allowing participants to express their feelings, discuss potential solutions, and learn how to support one another.

We also learn more about teenagers’ behaviors and functioning from parents, allowing us to tailor our treatment approach better. Benefits of this type of therapy include improved family relationships, better communication, healthier boundaries development, clarified family roles, increased empathy, and improved conflict resolution skills.

Withdrawal Therapy

We administer withdrawal therapy to help teenagers with prescription drug disorders stop using them as safely and quickly as possible. Our addiction experts use different approaches depending on the withdrawal symptoms. The most common approach is medication-assisted treatment, which combines FDA-approved medications (such as methadone and buprenorphine) and therapeutic interventions to help teenagers get off drugs.

The Residential Treatment Process for Teens with Prescription Pills Addiction

  • Assessment and Evaluations

To have your teenager admitted to our teen residential treatment center, you will schedule a consultation with us or fill out an online form requiring you to provide in-depth information about your child’s condition. We will also verify your insurance to confirm whether your provider will cover the treatment costs. After completing the assessment, we will suggest the best treatment options for your child and invite you for an in-person facility tour to evaluate the establishment and determine whether it will meet your child’s needs.

  • Medical Detoxification:

Weaning teenagers off prescription pills starts immediately after admission. At Key Healthcare, we offer medication-assisted treatment for teens to help lessen the severity and duration of uncomfortable and painful withdrawals. Common prescription pill use disorders medications include methadone, extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol), and buprenorphine(Subutex and Suboxone).

  • Individual and Group Therapy

Teenagers attend individual and group therapy sessions to develop coping skills and strategies, increase self-awareness, find healthy and positive support, and build stronger relationships.

  • Aftercare and Continuing Care

At Key Healthcare, we have an intensive outpatient program (IOP for teens) that offers a teen extended care program and relapse prevention planning to help teenagers stay on track with their recovery. Alternatively, you can enroll your teenager in our extended care program after rehabilitation, where they will live in our sober facilities for extended monitoring.

The Role of Residential Treatment in Addressing Prescription Pill Addiction in Teens

  • It offers a distraction-free environment allowing teenagers addicted to prescription pills to fully focus on recovery.
  • It allows the safe management of withdrawal symptoms
  • Residential treatment offers teenagers round-the-clock access to mental health professionals.
  • It allows teenagers addicted to prescription pills to attend group therapy sessions and learn from one another’s experiences
  • It offers a safe, structured environment and access to educational resources and outpatient programs after treatment.

The Benefits of Early Intervention in Prescription Pill Addiction

Early intervention prevents substance misuse or mild substance use disorders from worsening and causing more physical, behavioral, and psychological harm. It helps teenagers reduce their substance use before becoming dependent on drugs or being unable to control usage. It’s important to seek early intervention if you suspect that you or a loved one is misusing prescription pills or have a mild substance use disorder. Such interventions are generally unplanned and mostly occur during unrelated doctor or social services visits. Additional benefits of this type of intervention include:

  • It helps improve people’s health and normal daily functioning
  • It prevents a mild SUD or substance misuse from becoming severe.
  • It may eliminate the need for longer and more complex treatments associated with substance use disorders.

Choosing the Right Residential Treatment Program for Your Teen

Factors to Consider

Accreditations: You must confirm that the residential drug rehabilitation center is licensed and accredited. Such facilities have strict evidence-based care standards, proper medication handling, and excellent storage and documentation, among other key factors.

Access to Urgent and Emergency Care Facilities: Accidents and intentional acts of self-harm may happen during teen addiction treatment. Your residential facility should therefore have excellent working relationships with urgent care facilities and local hospitals to allow patients in crisis access higher levels of care.

Licensed, qualified staff members: You should select a treatment center with fully credentialed staff with experience in inpatient facilities for better results. Remember, prescription pill addiction treatment requires the highest level of care, given the possibly excruciating withdrawals and high chances of relapse.

Treatment approaches: Choose a teen residential treatment program that uses evidence-based treatment approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy, teen motivation interviewing, and cognitive behavioral therapy for teens to overcome substance use disorders.

Other factors include location, cost, and access to teen addiction aftercare programs.

Questions to Ask

  • How does the facility handle detox?
  • Is the facility licensed and accredited?
  • What is the general schedule of the treatment program? What should we expect?
  • Does the facility offer dual diagnosis? If so, how do they go about it?
  • What is the duration of the program?
  • What is the facility’s philosophy?
  • Can the facility’s treatment approaches be tailored to meet individual needs? If so, how?
  • What is the general atmosphere of the treatment center?
  • Does the facility accept insurance?
  • Is there an extended care program?
  • What are the payment options?

How to Help a Teen Suffering from Addiction

Once you identify common signs of drug abuse in teens or addiction (such as lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities, a decline in grades, increased secretiveness, poor personal hygiene, or strange excessive fatigue), it’s important to confirm your suspicions by approaching your teenager in a safe, non-judgmental way. You can ask questions like “I’ve witnessed some physical or behavioral changes in you lately. Have you been using alcohol or drugs?” while being straightforward, respectful, and concerned about their mental and physical wellness.

Remember to remain calm if they admit to using drugs and try to gauge the substances they have used, the usage frequency, and their triggers or motivations. They may also deny out of fear of repercussions, instances where you should give them the benefit of the doubt and avoid accusations. You can then use an at-home drug test or reach out to us to help you navigate such a situation.

If you confirm that your teenager has a substance use disorder, gather as much information as possible to determine how to assist them on their recovery journey. There are different options depending on the severity of the case. Still, we highly advise you to try the teen residential treatment program, which offers a structured and highly-supportive environment to help your teenager overcome their addiction. Kindly contact us for more information regarding this program.

Once your teenager starts treatment, remember to offer them the right support and resources.

Challenges of Residential Treatment for Teen Prescription Pills Addiction

Cost: Substance use disorder treatment for adolescents, especially residential treatment, is expensive. Unless your insurance covers 100% of the treatment costs, you will likely part with a hefty sum.

Separation from Families: Even though adolescent residential treatment centers embrace family participation, teenagers stay away from their families for an average of 45-60 days or even longer, especially if programs such as teen extended care are needed.

Restrictiveness: Teenagers are monitored 24/7 in residential treatment centers, making the facilities highly restrictive.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens with Prescription Pills Addiction

Teen Aftercare programs promote self-efficacy, teach coping skills and help teenagers prevent and avoid relapse for successful long-term recovery. At Key Healthcare, our extended care program has sober living facilities where teenagers can stay as we monitor them for long-term recovery. We also have an intensive outpatient program that offers aftercare planning, allowing teenagers to plan for relapse prevention and access aftercare support to help them stay on track with their recovery. Some of the relapse prevention skills taught in our facilities include:

  • Mindfulness meditation for increased self-awareness: Achieved through concepts such as letting go of personal control, acceptance, meditation, and prayer.
  • Self-care, such as having a structured exercise, sleep, and eating schedule
  • Knowledge of triggers
  • Grounding techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique for dealing with stress and anxiety.
  • Deep breathing
  • Tape through playing
  • Making an emergency contact list


Prescription pill addiction can devastate a teenager’s life if not detected and treated early enough. We at Key Healthcare have specialized facilities and qualified, experienced staff ready to treat your teenager’s prescription pills use disorder. Please schedule a consultation with us or fill out our online contact form and let us help you turn your child’s life around.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the Risks of Delayed Treatment for Prescription Pills Addiction?

Failure to diagnose and treat prescription pills addiction early enough can lead to serious physical and psychological harm, such as organ failure or damage, decreased cognitive function, mental health disorders (such as aggression, hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety and depression in teens), extreme withdrawal symptoms (e.g., delirium, depression, profuse sweating, and nausea) and personal problems in different areas of life.

What Evidence-Based Approaches are Used in Residential Treatment for Prescription Pill Addiction?

At Key Healthcare, we use the following evidence-based approaches for teen prescription pills addiction treatment:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – A therapy approach that helps teenagers change their thoughts and patterns. Benefits include negative behavior reduction, emotion regulation, relationship building, and problem-solving.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy- A therapy approach administered through individual therapy sessions, phone coaching, and group skills training to help teenagers develop healthier coping skills, deal with tough situations and manage their emotions.
  • Motivational interviewing- A therapy approach that allows teens to feel less alone in their struggles by providing helpful resources.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy- A therapy approach that teaches teenagers that thoughts and feelings don’t have to control their behavior and that they can choose how to act even in the face of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions)
  • Family therapy- A therapy approach that allows teenagers to identify underlying issues within the family setting.

How Do Prescription Pills Addiction and Teen Substance Abuse Intersect?

Teenagers may use prescription pills to counter the side effects of substance abuse, such as anxiety and insomnia, leading to an over-dependence on them and subsequent addiction. Certain prescription medications such as Ritalin and Adderall may also cause anxiety when abused or misused, leading teenagers to turn to drugs with calming effects, such as marijuana.

How Does Prescription Pills Addiction Treatment Differ from Other Substance Abuse Treatment Programs?

Treatment for prescription pill addiction (such as opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines) requires medication-assisted treatment to manage potentially intense withdrawal symptoms. Doctors and addiction experts use medications such as methadone, naltrexone, and buprenorphine to normalize brain chemistry, relieve psychological cravings, prevent the euphoric effects of opioids, and return body functioning to normal. Also, prescription pill abuse treatment mostly occurs in inpatient facilities for safer withdrawals and close monitoring of patients.

What are the Legal Consequences of Prescription Pills Abuse in Teens?

If found with illegally-obtained prescription pills, a teenager risks arrest, prosecution, court fines, probation, jail time/incarceration, and a life-long criminal history.

Can Teens Overcome Prescription Addiction on Their Own?

Given the potentially debilitating and dangerous side effects, teenagers are not recommended to detox from prescription pills alone. Such teenagers may also relapse or overdose, leading to coma or death. Therefore, ensure your child undergoes supervised medical detox and treatment for prescription pills addiction for increased safety.

How Long Does Residential Treatment for Prescription Pill Addiction Last?

Your teenager will stay in our residential treatment facilities for 45-60 days, depending on the severity of their condition and their response to treatment. You can also extend this duration by enrolling them in our teen extended care facility.

How Can Family Members Support Teens During Residential Treatment for Prescription Pill Addiction?

Family members can help teenagers in a residential treatment center achieve long-term recovery by attending occasional therapy sessions with them, minimizing conversations about personal and family struggles, showing interest and curiosity in their experience, practicing early resistance and disengagement, and being there for them physically subject to the residential treatment center’s terms.