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How/When to Choose a Teen Drug Rehab

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.


Resources for Concerned Parents/Caregivers

Curiosity and experimentation...

Curiosity and experimentation...

... till you don't even recognize your own child

... till you don't even recognize your own child

Drug Problems Do NOT Go Away On their Own

First of all, I hope you never, ever have to. Second of all, know that you are not alone. If my experiences -- yes, plural -- can be of any help to you, I offer them here.

The reality is that with today's super strong weed (pot, marijuana), widespread use of meth (crank) and easy availability of potentially lethal pharmaceutials like Oxycontin and X, teens make the transition from experimentation to addiction much quicker.

In another Hub I share insights into how to know when your child is using and abusing drugs (Parents-the-Anti-Drug at is also a very helpful resource on a variety of drug-related topics). If you do get to the point where you can no longer stand the way you are living, it's time to take action and reclaim your sanity and your household.

Bear in mind, as hard as it is to do (and as much as you are likely going to be "hated" by your teen for it) you MUST take action of some sort. Because legally, our little underaged darlings are still our responsibility. And, despite how mean and nasty they can be, we still love them. And let's face, it, when we get to the point where we know they're hooked on drugs or alcoholic, WE'RE SCARED TO DEATH!

So what options do you have to turn your baby's life back around? I will outline the ones we researched and found in our area. You may be more or less fortunate than I (living in California) to find better or more limited choices.

1. Chemical Dependency Outpatient Programs. These are typically after-school programs that require daily attendance for a set number of weeks. Some programs (the more intense ones) are day programs in lieu of school and go from morning till afternoon. Plus points: Good introduction to the concept of recovery. Can be done "discreetly" without the neighbors (like they don't already know what's going on!) or school/friends knowing. Also much less expensive than other alternatives. Minus points: LIke therapy -- if your teen is not interested in getting something out of it (and chances are your kid will not be) -- he/she will find ways to cheat the system, go through the motions and finish the program with no real progress. Outpatient is often a "first step" followed by more intensive treatments.

2. Inpatient Recovery Programs. Despite what I see as a HUGE need, there are very, very few inpatient programs for teens. The great granddaddy of recovery, Hazelden in Minnesota, has one. Betty Ford Clinic does not.

Our first time through we were lucky (or so we thought) to find one within 10 miles of our home. Desperate and unschooled in the fine points of rehab research, we based our decision on a 1/2 hour interview and the before-and-after video they showed us. I cried and said, "I just want my son back." My son actually did well there, until we discovered the director had himself relapsed. What I learned from this was to check the accreditation of the facility and the licensing of the personnel. Plus points of this facility (irrelevant, as it is now closed and the director facing legal action) were its proximity to my home and relatively low cost (less than $5K for a month's stay).

3. Therapeutic Boarding Schools. These are the kinds of schools you see advertised in the back of Sunset magazine. There are coed ones as well as male-only and female-only. A high percentage of them seem to be in Utah. By the time we carted my son off to his second round of treatment, we were out of patience. We were PISSED. His behavior had escalated to the point where we were on constant edge with him in the house. He was defying every rule, thumbing his nose at us day and night. And going downhill fast.

Based on the advice of people who told me he needed to be "broken down then built back up" I enrolled him in all-boys Liahona Academy in Virgin, Utah. Plus points: During the 11 months he was there (it's a lockdown facility) we know he was safe and sober. He also did some schoolwork and, because there is no TV, took up reading for pleasure for the first time. The on-site psychiatrist made a nice therapeutic complement to the "law and order/military" approach of the rest of the staff. Also, relative to other programs, the cost is reasonable (around $5K per month -- plus travel expenses when your teen "earns" visits from you, and later, a home visit). Minus points: Emphasis is on a wide range of behavioral issues, not just drug/alcohol abuse. The actual recovery program is minimal. The effects of the program seemed to wear off as soon as my son returned to his "real world" environment.

4. Wilderness Camps. Not long ago the TV show "Brat Camp" gave the world a glimpse into how these programs work. Teens are escorted out into the wilds, where they are summarily stripped of their old notions while being taught self-reliance. While I do not have any direct experience with these, I will tell you that 've heard mixed reviews. Like any approach, a lot has to do with the willingness of the teen to change.

5. Therapy-Based Youth Treatment Centers. My son's third visit to rehab this spring was about 180 degrees and several hundred miles away from Utah. I had looked into but dismissed ECHO Malibu (and programs like it) previously because I felt it would be too "cushy" and too much of a "reward." I kid you not. This is how crazy-making a child's drug addiction can be!

This time, however, he came to me asking for help. In my heart I was grateful that Liahona had kept him alive for those 11 months. But also in my heart, I knew sending him back there would be unproductive. A different approach was needed this time.

ECHO Malibu (in Malibu, California) works on the underlying psychological issues associated with teen dysfunction (including drug addiction but also suicide attempts, cutting, etc.). They also have a very strong family/parenting effectiveness program. Plus points: The facility only takes 6 teens at a time (coed). The ratio of credentialed psychologists/psychiastrists to teen is good, and the staffers are hip, caring and effective. The program digs deep, but also builds the teens up. My son came home transformed -- he looked, talked and acted like a different kid. Minus points: Because beds are limited, you may have to wait. Also, the level of intensity and shrink-power of this type of program doesn't come cheap. Price tag for a 30-day stay: $30K. And most teens stay substantially longer. The good news is there is a "step-down" program where teens can graduate to living in a nearby sober house with staff supervision.

Which of these program types will be best for your family? There is no right or wrong. I can tell you that paying more does not necessarily equate to a better outcome. Recovery is an extremely uncertain "science."

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I know for certain had I sent my son to ECHO Malibu a year earlier, it would have been a complete waste of money. Only by experiencing Liahona and coming home "determined to relapse" (and doing so) was he able to acknowledge his inability to use recreationally, become willing to work on himself, and appreciate the ECHO program.

I will say this: If you are facing the demon of a drug-addicted or alcohol-addicted teen, take it seriously and take action.

There is no substitute for doing your own research. You are entrusting your child's welfare, and making an investment -- a large investment -- in keeping your child alive and (hopefully) restoring him/her to health. You owe it to yourself to read/listen beneath the marketing claims. If you don't feel comfortable with any aspect of the facility, program, or staff, look elsewhere. But the worst thing you can do is nothing. Because although rehab is expensive, the alternative can be deadly.

A Handy Resource for Desperate Parents

Help is possible. Reach out!

Help is possible. Reach out!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Mathew Jordan on January 01, 2019:

This is spot on. So much of the outcome has to do with how willing the kid is to improve. I had to put my son in an after-school type counseling program, but he was not not into it I just had no effect at all. We had good experiences, though, with inpatient programs that lasted a couple of months.

Being in a totally new environment (away from school) helped him out a lot. It wasn't the end of it, but that was what I remember being one of the most helpful things we did for him.

Lucy Metcalfe on January 29, 2017:

This is very helpful! As a mother, the most hardest part in life is to see your child going down the wrong path. It can crush every mother’s heart to see that their child is being destroyed by addiction. This is a very serious problem that needs immediate action. I’m glad to know the people working at They have been of great help to us.

Susan Reid (author) from Where Left is Right, CA on October 14, 2012:

Thank you for your thorough and heartfelt comment. My heart breaks for you and so many other boys. I wish I had not sent my son to Liahona. You are right when you say "wolf in sheep's clothing." I have learned -- and try to tell other parents -- that the "troubled teen with no worth who must be punished' model is wrong. I see that so clearly. I wish there were more positive treatment options around. My son and I were talking just tonight about opening one -- more like a zen spa for teens, patterened after ECHO Malibu (which unfortunately is no longer).

Thank you again for sharing your story. I hope in time the bad memories will fade. They already did enough to you while you were there. Don't let them steal your present and future, too. You've paid your dues the hard way. The best revenge is to live happy, joyous and free.

Sending you hugs. MM

TeenAdvocate on October 13, 2012:

First of all, I used to be a resident at Liahona Academy. I stayed

there for about 11 months and graduated. Liahona Academy is a wolf

in sheeps clothing. In its summary it says,

"Our program’s design is based on academics, therapy, behavior

modification, positive peer culture, recreation, and vocational


So the their first point in their programs design is academics. If

this is a treatment center for troubled teen boys, then that means

it should be focused on helping those boys become not so troubled

instead of using school to mark their progress. I would say that

Liahona Academy gives out free diplomas. I graduated a year early.

Other kids there came in with 3 credits and graduated within a year.

The way that school works there is that you work from a syllabus out

of a text book. You complete the semester as soon as you can and you

get the free half credit. The best part is only one of the teachers

there had a teaching license. All of the other "teachers" are just

average joes that need a job. The principal is credentialed. He

comes in about once or twice a week to give out a diploma or give

out another class. That is the academic side of Liahona Academy.

The therapy side is really twisted. The therapists have credentials

to be so. But I would hardly consider the one I had a therapist. I

could have done his job ten times better than him. The therapy side

of Liahona Academy is a joke to me. It didn't help me one bit. My

therapist, while there, would repeatedly break the law by leaking

confidential information from the therapy office to other people.

Yes, there is a law against that. The exception to the law is

information about hurting oneself or others. Which I did not speak

about in therapy or out because I had no intention to do such

things. My therapist at Liahona did not listen to me with open ears

and constantly knock down things i said to him so i didn't bother to

tell him my feelings because they were "bad". Its bad to think about

your friends or where you used to live. The therapy he gave me were

countless packets where you read the selection and answer questions.

To take up the session time he would have me read out of packets and

books while he took a nice nap. He was old. He didn't understand

things of today and judged things off of his life as a christan in

the 60's in the middle of Wyoming. The thing is he wouldn't take,

"im an athiest" for an answer.You had to have a higher power, which

was messed up and discriminative because other residents got

different treatment.

Behavior modification, your probably thinking this is just a little

therapy and making you follow rules. The form of discipline they use

are essays. The worse the rule you break the more words your essay

has to have. they go from 300 to 3500. If you get 1200 or more words

of essays in a week then you get on there worst discipline which is

called work crew. And its called crew because there's rarley just

one or none people on it. Its a crew of "the outcasts" Your on an

entire new program on work crew. When your on work crew you sit and

stare at a wall all day unless you are outside running an indefinite

amount of laps. Until they feel like saying stop.

It was impossible to cry for help there, we were brainwashed and

they decided whether to send your weekly letter or not. We had raw

chicken on Halloween 2008. A year where time goes so slow, will draw

out depression for the rest of my life. I remember when I didn't have two pages from a self help book memorized in my Monday-Wednesday window, that week it was punishment for the overall behavior of the boys. My punishment was 70 laps around the cement track and 50 suicides. You definitely don't get personal treatment. Your just another "troubled teen" with no worth. And when you are repeatedly left to feel that way. It lasts the rest of your life. Please don't send your kids away. All you really need to do is communicate with them.

Susan Reid (author) from Where Left is Right, CA on September 16, 2011:

Thank you for commenting, addiction rehabs.

I appreciate the link.

Finding rehabs for those under 18 is really hard.

There should be more of them. A LOT more!

addiction rehabs on September 16, 2011:

If somebody are waiting for that without any prescription they will get control on the addiction problem can reduce their misunderstanding through this site. This is very sensitive and serious issue so that should take help of various types of treatment programs of drug addiction.

Susan Reid (author) from Where Left is Right, CA on April 29, 2011:

Hello Charlie Junio,

Thank you for bring up Detox, as it is an ESSENTIAL part of rehabilitation for many, many drugs. If you can't make it past the withdrawal you'll never get clean.

Rehab is, as you say, a retraining of your mind. The obsession of the mind is as big (or bigger) than the physical dependence.

You've really hit on the importance of some sort of professional, or formal mediation.

People think you can "just say no" to drugs. Not when you're already hooked. Willpower alone is less than useless.

Anyway, thank you for commenting. Appreciate your expertise here! MM

Charlie Junio on April 29, 2011:

Once you've signed up for a Drug Abuse treatment, you will be diagnosed. For serious drug addiction, a detoxification or Detox treatment is necessary. The addictive drug in your body affects your thinking pattern. Unless this is removed, you will still crave for the drug, and no amount of counseling will be able to help you. The bigger part of Drug Abuse treatment concerns your mind.

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