Mine is just 17 and has been in my home about 6 mo of the past 4 yrs. He's been everywhere else, RTCs, hospitals, group homes, shelters, rehab, jail, etc, etc. I'm sorry you choose to view this as "sending him away". But that's your viewpoint. Mine, who is also adopted at birth, was not "sent away". He needed help that I could not provide. In fact, his first Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was in our community and I saw him at least 3 times a week. He could easily have earned the privilege to come home for the weekend. I could have talked to him every day. Can't think of a placement he's been in that I couldn't talk to him every day except for the first month or so in some places...oops... forgot jail but even then, in some he could call every day.
Is my son "cured"? Heavens no. As Fran said, there are neurological issues with my son that are there for life. But he is improved. The earlier a person gets into treatment the better the long term prognosis. I did not want to waste those years.
I have to agree with the others that at home, outpatient treatment is the first thing to try. That's assuming, of course, that he's not a danger to himself or others. Frankly, if he's joyriding while using or drunk, that ship has sailed. But again, it's your choice to take that risk with your child's, neighbors, friends, etc lives.... and that's not to mention your and your sons' futures. It only takes one accident, violent episode, drunken state. or whatever for anyone to end up in jail for life or indebted to someone else for life as a result of some lawsuit. Obviously, you are aware of your legal financial liability, does your state have criminal charges for parents based on the child's acts? I watched mine riding a bike drunk in rush hour traffic one time when he was 12 or 13 and thanked God that he and everyone who drove past him that afternoon got home safe. It was a miracle.
It is hard for those of us with no relevant professional training or experience to differentiate a psychological cause to our children's behavior vs a neurological, psychiatric or addiction cause. Genetics is a huge factor in this. Psychiatric and addiction issues are highly genetic. If you don't know at least 3 generations of genetics on both sides you don't know what you could be looking at genetically. Mine had 2 birthparent addicts. His chances of being an addict were over 75%. Addiction and psychiatric illness are also highly co-morbid (some say over 80% of addicts are mentally ill). Mine is undoubtedly an addict. The only person on this Earth who does not believe that is him. Did you know that it typically takes a minimum of 3 to 4 rehab stays till an addict begins to recover? Did you know that there is a strong correlation between long term successful recovery from addiction and the number and length of stays in rehab? Are you aware that you have less than 3 years to make an impact on your child's issues? At 18 he can and will refuse treatment and there's nothing you can do about it but beg.
I urge you to consider the reasons you are not putting your child into treatment. Is that because it's hard on you or because it's in his best interest? 5 or 10 years from now if he continues on this path will you be comfortable with the decision you are making now? There are a LOT of things to consider including the fact that you can always withdraw him from whatever program or school you put him in. For most of us the decision to put him into placement was not something that we did in a weekend or a week. It took months of facing reality.
Also, FYI mine is currently home and has no abandonment issues. I was at every family therapy session, case mgmt meeting, visitation, IEP mtg, court hearing, Dr appointment, etc, etc. (Almost every anyway, when my car died I had transportation issues and did these things by phone if possible.) He had my cell # and could call me whenever he wanted to talk to me. He was plenty angry that he wasn't home and always blamed me for that. But he has always been very clear, as I have, that he and I are totally bonded as parent and child. Same applies to his brothers, the bonding does not change by virtue of location.
I'll add a couple of things to your "job" of "straightening" him out at home.
1. You can't let anything slip by. There is never an excuse for disobeying rules or inappropriate behavior. You must be totally consistent. EVERY rule must be enforced at all times. The consequences MUST be enforced in every instance.
2. The rules must be clearly stated in writing. That includes every rule, curfews, kids allowed or not allowed, time limits, computer accessibility, language, yelling, homeworks handed in, no drugs of any kind, etc, etc. The consequences for infringement must also be in writing. Rewards for good behavior also in writing and not discretionary. Then back to #1 above.