What is teen substance use disorder?

Teen Substance Use Disorder
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What is the treatment for teen substance use disorder?

If you have substance use disorder, treatment usually includes group therapy, one or more types of counseling, and education. Sometimes medicines are used to help you quit. If you are physically dependent on substances, you may need medical treatment. You may need to stay in a hospital or treatment center.

Treatment focuses on more than substance use. It also helps you cope with the anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment that often happen when a person tries to stop using substances.

Treatment also looks at other parts of your life, like your relationships with friends and family, school and work, medical problems, and living situation. It helps you find and manage problems. Treatment helps you take control of your life so you don't have to depend on substances.

Substance use disorder affects the whole family. Family counseling often is part of treatment.

How is substance use disorder in teens diagnosed?

If a doctor thinks that your teen may have a substance use disorder, the doctor will:

  • Ask about your teen's past health and do a physical exam.
  • Want to talk with your teen in private. The doctor may ask your teen about their attitudes toward substance use, their history of use, and any effects of drug use.

Certain health conditions are common in teens who use substances. These include ADHD, depression, and anxiety disorders. The doctor may try to find out if your teen has any of these conditions. The doctor will want to treat these conditions as well as the substance use.

The doctor may refer your teen to a professional who is experienced in teen substance use disorders.

Tests like urine or blood tests aren't usually done to diagnose a substance use disorder. And most health professionals won't do these tests without the teen's consent. A parent's consent usually isn't enough.

What increases a teen's risk for substance use disorder?

Some teens try substances such as alcohol or drugs only a few times and stop. Teens who keep using substances may form a strong need, or craving, for them. This can lead to a substance use disorder. Many factors increase a teen's risk for using substances and maybe developing a disorder. For example:

  • Teens with family members who use alcohol or other drugs are more likely to have a substance use disorder.
  • Teens who feel that they aren't connected to or valued by their parents are at greater risk.
  • Teens who have poor self-esteem or emotional or mental health conditions, such as depression, are at increased risk.
  • Teens who start using substances at a young age greatly increase their risk of a substance use disorder.

What is substance use disorder in teens?

Teens who have substance use disorder use substances even though it causes harm to themselves or others. This disorder can range from mild to severe. It can develop from the use of almost any type of substance, including:

  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana and other drugs.
  • Prescription medicines.
  • Over-the-counter medicines.

Helping your teen succeed in treatment for a substance use disorder

Here are some ideas for how you can help your teen succeed during and after treatment.

  • Find the right treatment.

    Talk with a health professional about treatment options in your area.

    • Ask about programs for teens. Adult programs don't meet the needs of teens. The adult programs usually stress long-term health and relationship effects of a substance use disorder. These effects aren't as great of a concern for teens.
    • Consider whether your teen needs to be in an inpatient or outpatient program. Look for a program with the features your teen needs. These may include a school program or opportunities for parental involvement.
  • Be involved in the treatment and aftercare program.

    Let your teen know that you support them. It may take a long time for your teen to rebuild trust and to forgive themself. And it may take time for you to forgive them.

  • Get help for your family.

    Talk with a health professional about help for you and your family. Your family members need to know that they didn't cause the condition but that their behavior can affect the condition. Support groups such as Al-Anon and Alateen may be very helpful for family members.

  • Help your teen find a positive direction.

    Having a sense of purpose in life is important for your teen to stay substance-free. Treatment usually includes help for teens to identify their talents and strengths. Teens can use this knowledge to find healthy interests, hobbies, and jobs.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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