Considerations for Adolescents
According to the Centers for
and Prevention's Youth Risk
Behavior Survey, in 2017, 14.0% of high school students reported that
they have used an illicit drug. According to the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research has shown
correlation between having an adverse
experience (ACE) and developing a substance use disorder (SUD). ACEs can include living in a
house with individuals who exhibit SUD behaviors. Rural SUD programs implementing a multigenerational
approach to treatment should consider how SUD behaviors affect children and adolescents living in
the home. Close collaboration with social services organizations and schools can help rural SUD
programs address the needs of all family members.
Prevention and early treatment of substance misuse during adolescence is critical because the
brain undergoes substantial
changes during this period, which may have major implications for healthy cognitive and emotional
development. In general, the earlier
the age of
initiation of drug and alcohol use, the higher the likelihood of developing SUD later in life.
Multiple factors contribute
to adolescent substance misuse, including:
- Parental substance use behavior
- Peer influences
- Media messaging and marketing
- Other environmental and cultural factors
Research has found that therapies to treat SUD are often designed for adults and may not be as effective in
adolescent populations. Adolescent treatment typically involves family members and requires parental consent.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse created Principles
of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, which describes adolescent
substance use, principles of treatment, and evidence-based approaches for adolescents with SUDs.
Providers who treat adolescents with SUD need to consider the legal considerations surrounding
confidentiality and privacy. Adolescents are
more likely to seek SUD treatment if they believe services will be confidential. Laws and
statutes surrounding consent for and confidentiality of SUD treatment for adolescents vary from
state-to-state. Providers should be aware of legal and
ethical aspects and implications of admitting
adolescents into treatment programs and communicating with their parents and caregivers in a way that
does not violate the minor's privacy.
Resources to Learn More
Perceived Ease of Access to Alcohol, Tobacco
and Other Substances in Rural and Urban US Students
Examines the differences in perceived ease of access to both legal and illegal substances for
adolescents in rural and urban areas of Georgia. Provides statistics with breakdowns by substance,
rural/urban, and middle versus high school students.
Authors: Warren, J., Smalley, K., & Barefoot, K.
Citation: Rural and Remote Health, 15(4), 3397