Teen substance abuse is common in the United States. Many students drink heavily at house parties, misuse prescription drugs for a temporary high and engage in marijuana use. This is an epidemic that has produced myriad consequences for young people.
Substance use can harm an adolescent’s health. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors such as drunk driving. And some reports have indicated that marijuana use can negatively affect memory, learning and impulse control.
Many teens seek treatment for substance abuse problems. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 1.1 million teens needed treatment for drug or alcohol problems in 2016.
Overcoming addiction is the primary goal of rehab. However, it is also important for teens in treatment to continue their education to avoid experiencing academic setbacks upon leaving rehab. Luckily, many facilities cater to all aspects of a teen’s needs — including educational needs.
Several rehab options for teens exist. Outpatient care allows teens to receive treatment for drug or alcohol problems without disrupting everyday life. Through outpatient treatment, teens can continue living at home, attend class during normal hours and receive treatment.
For adolescents with more severe substance use disorders, including those with co-occurring disorders, long-term residential care may be needed. This treatment option requires teens to take residence at a rehab center, where they can receive more intensive addiction treatment.
Many rehab centers offer programs that allow teens to continue their education. Some facilities enlist tutors or teachers who are certified or licensed by the state. Educational programs offered during rehab may include self-study or distance-learning education.
At rehab, teens can work on school assignments and still participate in weekly counseling, group therapy and family therapy. Teens typically stay in inpatient treatment for at least 30 days before transitioning to outpatient care.
Teachers generally evaluate where teens stand academically. They then provide teens with the academic support needed to meet educational goals. At many rehab centers, teen residents are expected to complete schoolwork, including homework assignments.
Academic support during treatment may include:
In some instances, academic credits earned through treatment centers transfer to a teen’s high school and count toward graduation credits. And many facilities work with schools to ensure a smooth transition back to school upon leaving treatment.
Next Generation Village is a teen treatment facility in Sebring, Florida, that provides tutors who work with a student’s school district to maintain their education during treatment. At the facility, teens are expected to keep up with their schoolwork.
Alternative schools are nontraditional schools for students of all academic levels. They are specifically designed for students with social problems or special needs or who are at risk for failing out of school — a possible outcome of substance abuse.
Several types of alternative schools exist, including:
Some alternative schools serve students who struggle with drug problems. For example, Youth Experiencing Success — also called Y.E.S. School — is a one-room alternative school for students who battle addiction but have a desire to achieve and remain sober.
Located in Santa Cruz, California, Y.E.S. School offers math, history, English and independent studies courses. Students can attend five recovery meetings and a counseling session each week. Students are referred to the school by their school district.
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After leaving rehab, many teens go back to their former high schools. But these schools likely have not changed much since the teen last attended. Substance abuse among the current students may still be common, and students in recovery may be offered drugs upon their return, leading to relapse.
In recent years, recovery high schools have become increasingly popular. These educational institutions combine the educational components of a traditional high school with recovery support tools. They also give students who battled addiction a safe place to learn after attending rehab.
80 percent of recovery high school students experienced a decline in substance use.
For example, the River Oak Center in Jacksonville, Florida, provides a supportive learning environment for students who once battled addiction. The school uses the 12-step model, and it enlists recovery coaches and a mental health counselor trained to support students in recovery.
A 2014 study published in the Peabody Journal of Education examined the effectiveness of recovery high schools. According to the report, 80 percent of students experienced a decline in substance use, 71 percent improved academically, 59 percent progressed emotionally and 57 percent reported doing better with family issues.
It is important for teens to continue learning while undergoing treatment. Failing to address the academic needs can lead to poor performance at school upon completing rehab. This can set a student back academically, eroding their self-confidence.
Absenteeism, or being chronically absent from school, creates a snowball effect. Students can fall behind on the reading skills needed to further their education. Failing to maintain their education affects a teen’s ability to graduate and succeed later in life.
In fact, a Rhode Island study found that just 11 percent of high school students who were chronically absent from school made it to their second year of college. Conversely, 51 percent of students who didn’t miss that much school made it to their second year of college.
Missing a month or more of school while in rehab can affect learning abilities and academic standing. While helping teens overcome drug or alcohol addiction is the primary objective of rehab, many treatment centers support teens academically to ensure future educational success.