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A Unique Model for Adolescent Addiction Treatment: A Description of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

Arria, Amelia M. PhD*; Smith, Jacqueline M. PhD; Bugbee, Brittany A. MPH*; Mader, Joel MEd; Winters, Ken C. PhD§

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: September 2017 - Volume 16 - Issue 3 - p 129–137
doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000110
Original Articles

Objectives: Substance use disorders among adolescents are a serious concern in both the United States and Canada. In recent years, strides have been made in our understanding of how to effectively treat these disorders. However, there remains a need to understand how successful treatment approaches for adolescents can be integrated into comprehensive treatment models. This article presents a case study of a comprehensive, multidimensional adolescent treatment program, the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC).

Materials and Methods: Data on treatment completion were obtained by reviewing the records for the 297 adolescents who completed a preintake assessment or who entered treatment at AARC between 2008 and 2012.

Results: AARC is a comprehensive, long-term, semiresidential treatment program for adolescents with a substance use disorder that integrates 12-step-based individual and group therapy, family-based therapy, the use of peer counselors and family-run recovery homes, and continuing care. During this 5-year period, 149 adolescents entered treatment at AARC, and 120 (80.5%) completed the program. The median length of stay among graduates was 277 days. The most common reasons for leaving before treatment completion were parents choosing to end treatment and the client displaying a level of substance use problems that was not severe enough to warrant treatment at AARC.

Conclusions: The AARC program is a unique model for comprehensive, long-term adolescent substance use treatment with a high rate of treatment completion. Further research is needed to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of AARC and if successful, how this treatment model can be transferred and adapted to other settings.

*Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Center on Young Adult Health and Development, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park, MD

Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre

Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

§Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, OR

Supported by an anonymous donor. The anonymous donor had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Amelia M. Arria, PhD, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Center on Young Adult Health and Development, University of Maryland School of Public Health, 1234 School of Public Health Building, College Park, MD 20742 (e-mail:

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