Use and abuse of drugs and alcohol by teens is very common and can have serious consequences. Recurrent adolescent substance use contributes to personal distress, poor school performance, short and long term health problems, relationship difficulties, and involvement in antisocial activities.
Some teenagers will become dependent or "addicted." They can use more than they planned, struggle with cutting down or stopping use, or give up important activities in their lives. Some may even become tolerant (needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and experience withdrawal when they stop use.
Teenagers who are simply experimenting with alcohol or drugs can die or suffer severe injuries, or acquire HIV or other infections, or become pregnant due to engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of the substance.
Fortunately, prevention and treatment can make a difference. We know that the development of a substance use disorder is complex, involving interactions between biological and environmental risk factors. Many teenagers who have a substance use disorder can also have one or more psychiatric disorders. This knowledge has led to the development of effective ways to intervene. Parents and other concerned adults can help to bring science-based prevention strategies to their homes and communities. They can be alert to signs of substance abuse, and seek treatments that can help.
The goal of this resource center is to offer parents, doctors and other clinicians with scientific information about the prevention and treatment of adolescent substance abuse.