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Substance Abuse Treatment Centers Near You 

Adolescent Substance Abuse

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.
  • 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.


Monitoring the Future Survey

Understanding The Landscape

Rates of adolescent substance use are climbing. And Changing.

  • 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. 

  • 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. 


Monitoring the Future Survey Two

Treatment for Adolescent Substance Abuse

Prevention, early intervention, and treatment for individuals "at risk" can include the following

  • 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 highly effective
  • Performing productive and fruitful work
  • Contributing to the betterment of their community

Accordingly, it’s important to not only treat mental health issues, but also to promote mental well-being. This is one of our core focuses at Kemet.

Kemet Health