The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

Substance Use Disorders in Youth

Substance Use Disorders in Youth

In the United States, about 5% of youth aged 12 to 17 will develop a substance use disorder (SUD) each year, but fewer than 10% of the 1.3 million youth who meet diagnostic criteria for an SUD receive treatment. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had alcohol use disorder (AUD) and about 5.2% of the youth who had AUD in the past year received treatment. Substance use disorders generally begin during adolescence and are more than twice as common in males as in females. White adolescents tend to have higher rate of drug use than minorities. One in three children start drinking by the end of eighth grade, and of them, half will report having been drunk.

The primary care setting is an optimal opportunity for healthcare providers to query adolescents about the risk of alcohol and other drug use (AOD). Most adolescents seek care once a year; however, rates of screening and intervention for AOD in primary care are low. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment) model for screening. HEADDSS (home, education, activities, drugs and drinking, sexuality, and suicide) is another psychosocial assessment tool for adolescents that can be utilized.


Filed under: Public Health, Substance Abuse

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