Research reveals a number of basic principles that underlie effective drug addiction treatment. Below are treatment principles found in Principles of Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide, published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and on the Drug Strategies treatment locator website.

Accurate assessment is an important first step in diagnosing substance abuse disorders. A treatment plan should be created that matches the severity of the problem. Program services must address all aspects of a teen's life, including school, juvenile justice, mental and physical health, and the community.Parents have a powerful influence on their teen's development. Research shows that involving parents in the teen's treatment produces better outcomes. Treatment programs and materials need to be tailored to adolescents, who are more concrete thinkers than adults and also have less-developed verbal skills. Program strategies and activities should build a therapeutic alliance-a climate of trust between the therapist and the client-which facilitates behavior change. Staff needs to be knowledgeable about adolescent development and co-occurring mental disorders as well as substance abuse and addiction. Treatment experts agree that programs should recognize both gender and cultural differences in their treatment approach, since recent research points to significant differences between male and female adolescent drug users. Continuing care services include relapse prevention training, follow-up plans and referral to community resources. Remaining in treatment for an adequate period of time is critical for treatment effectiveness. Multiple courses of treatment may be required for success.

Questions And Answers

What can my teen and I expect at a substance use disorder assessment?
An assessment involves an interview performed by a trained chemical dependency professional. The interview usually lasts about one and a half to two and a half hours. A comprehensive substance use disorder assessment have five main goals, (1) Determine whether your teen is experiencing problems related to substance use and/or has progressed to addiction, (2) Assess the full range of problems that need to be addressed in treatment, (3) Plan appropriate treatment, (4) Involve appropriate family members in treatment, and (5) Evaluate the effectiveness of interventions so far.
– Adapted from CSAT website

If treatment is needed, what’s likely to be recommended for my teen?
You could get a recommendation for any of the following mix of treatment services: 12 step meeting attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Access to Recovery, detoxification services, outpatient treatment services, intensive out patient treatment services, residential treatment services, and/or family therapy. If you have questions about these services for adolescents, call the Washington State Recovery Helpline 206-626-7376

How can I find a treatment provider?
A good place to start is the Washington State Recovery Helpline. They have listings of all treatment providers and treatment facilities in Washington State. Other treatment locators are the National Treatment Locator the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse treatment agency guide, and the King County Metro treatment guide.

How effective is drug addiction treatment?
Many programs tailored to treating adolescents reduce drug use and improve school performance, and treatment is far superior to no treatment in heading off the course of the disease. Relapse is common during the recovery process, and is not necessary viewed as treatment failure. 

Where can I go to see the research on drug addiction treatment?
To see in-depth information about the latest research visit the 
Chestnut House Systems Lighthouse Institute.

Many treatment facilities use a program called “Seven Challenges.” What is that?
Seven Challenges is an evidence based treatment program designed for adolescents who are not ready to change, or who are in the early stages of change. Find more information at

Where can I find a support group for my child?
Support groups are available through Alcoholics AnonymousNarcotics Anonymous and AA Online.