Substance Use Disorder in Adolescents

Alcohol and drug use in adolescents is a serious problem that can grow into a substance use disorder or addiction, affecting young people’s health and quality of life. Various risk factors can add to the development of the issue, such as insufficient parental control, peer influence, academic problems, poverty, and others. Furthermore, adolescents with a parental history of alcohol and drug abuse problems should be concerned because family members’ consumption of substances can increase the possibility of similar behavior and addiction in teenagers. According to Gray and Squeglia (2018), “youth with a family history of alcohol use disorder are 3–5 times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder” (p. 618). In turn, the effects of drug use in teenagers include damage to neurocognitive and psychosocial development, mental health problems, social withdrawal, and risky sexual behavior (Kristjansson et al., 2020). Therefore, adolescents with parents that engage in alcohol and drug consumption are at high risk of developing an addiction.

There are several recommendations for adolescents to reduce the risk of developing a substance use disorder. Kristjansson et al. (2020) propose “the Icelandic Model for Primary Prevention of Substance Use — a theory-based approach that has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing substance use in Iceland over the past 20 years” (p. 62). The core principles include being aware of the risk factors, participating in local communities and activities promoting well-being, and strengthening the connection with supportive family members and peers. In this regard, stress can increase burnout in teenagers, leading them to seek coping mechanisms. Healthy hobbies, sleeping patterns, and eating habits can reduce the risk of developing a harmful way of coping with academic or relationship stress (Kristjansson et al., 2020). Peer relationships are essential in addressing drug abuse risk factors since friends can pressure teenagers to engage in dangerous activities. Overall, a combination of preventive measures can help decrease the risks of developing a substance use disorder or addiction in adolescents.


Gray, K. M., & Squeglia, L. M. (2018). Research review: What have we learned about adolescent substance use?. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(6), 618-627. Web.

Kristjansson, A. L., Mann, M. J., Sigfusson, J., Thorisdottir, I. E., Allegrante, J. P., & Sigfusdottir, I. D. (2020). Development and guiding principles of the Icelandic model for preventing adolescent substance use. Health Promotion Practice, 21(1), 62-69. Web.

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