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Adolescent Substance Abuse Specialist - Near Annandale, VA

The age of onset for substance abuse continues to decrease and impact young adults. Effective substance abuse treatment for adolescents is essential.

Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the development of substance use and mental health disorders.

  • The adolescent brain is well positioned to learn from new experiences, however this also makes it vulnerable to loss of control from substance abuse.
  • Substance abuse can impact the brain’s ability to function in the short-term, as well as prevent proper growth and development later in life. [Well-written]
  • Some patients develop co-occurring mental health & substance abuse issues. These patients have a worse prognosis and often a greater psychological burden. Learn more about co-occurring mental health & substance abuse.

Why do adolescents take drugs?

  • To fit in. “Because others are doing it” – the fear of not being accepted.
  • To feel good. Drugs interact with brain chemistry to produce feelings of pleasure.
  • To feel better. Some adolescents suffer from mental health issues and stress. Drug use can be an attempt to lessen the feelings of distress.
  • To do better. We live in a competitive world. Some adolescents may turn to illegal drugs or stimulants for perceived increased performance. 
  • To experiment. Adolescents might seek out new or thrilling experiences.


Rates of adolescent substance use are climbing. And Changing.

2019 Monitoring the Future Survey

  • Alcohol use and binge drinking continue to show significant 5-year and lifetime. Which on its own is a positive result.
  • However, there are clear trends in increased use of marijuana and vaping among adolescents. 
  • Vaping exceeds any other kind of adolescent substance use. Vaping can include “just flavoring”, nicotine, or marijuana” – all of which are harmful. Vaping marijuana can be more dangerous than smoking the drug, as it often comes in a higher concentration of THC. 
  • More than 1/3 of high school seniors report regular/daily marijuana use, with trends at or near 30-year peak levels. 
  • Use of other substances is wide-spread, including prescription medications (amphetamines, painkillers, cough medicine, sedatives) and illegal drugs (synthetic marijuana, hallucinogens, MDMA/”ecstasy”). 

There is a clear need for school-based interventions for non-juvenile/justice involved adolescents. 

Number of Adolescents Admitted to Treatments

  • Substance use disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in adolescents and young adults. 10-15% of U.S. High School students would currently meet the criteria for at least one substance use disorder.  
  • Only 10% of adolescents who could benefit from treatment actually receive it. Schools are often limited; interventions are minimalist, general, and sometimes non-existent.
  • Seeking treatment before problems get too severe is critical. Without professional help, issues may end up severe enough to come to the attention of other systems, such as juvenile justice or social services. 


Prevention, early intervention, and treatment for individuals “at risk”. 

  • At-risk populations can benefit from access to clinical support and resources before development of more serious issues. 
  • Behavioral – or “psychosocial” - interventions are considered “first-line” substance abuse treatment for adolescents, and can often be more effective than medication.

Treatment services to adolescents who have more advanced substance use. 

  • There is a large and growing population of young adults who need more serious treatment for substance abuse. We are here to help.

Family involvement is important. 

  • Adolescent treatment brings about change in multiple areas of a young individual’s life. Context is important for these areas of change, which is why family involvement is crucial. 
  • The therapist and family should be equal participants in the therapeutic process. Parent involvement improves compliance and treatment outcomes. 
  • Post-treatment support is also very important for maintaining progress from treatment.

Treatment barriers are everywhere. Many adolescents fall through the cracks. 

Treatment engagement and retention rates of adolescents in substance abuse treatment are notoriously low.

Healthcare is fragmented, uncooperative, and unforgiving. Finding the right counselor or team who understands and works with you is exceedingly difficult

Therapy is expensive and many specialized practices will not accept your insurance. 

Explore our Service Offering to learn more about our programs or schedule an appointment! We look forward to connecting further with you.

Kemet Health