Recent trends in adolescent substance use, primary care screening, and updates in treatment options

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Abstract

Purpose of review

To provide a brief overview on trends in common substances of abuse in adolescents, a summary of tools to evaluate adolescent substance abuse in an outpatient setting, and an update of outpatient and inpatient treatment options.

Recent findings

Recent national data suggest an overall slight decline in the use of tobacco, crystal methamphetamine, heroin, and club drugs. No significant change was noted in the use of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Yearly screening of all adolescents for substance use is recommended. This can be accomplished in an office setting using mnemonics, structured interview techniques, and brief screens for substance abuse. If a problem is identified, various outpatient and inpatient treatments are available. Individual, family, and group therapy methods are available. Other options include acute detoxification programs, partial hospitalization, acute residential treatment, residential treatment centers and wilderness programs. Pharmacological treatments are available for nicotine, alcohol, and opioid addiction.

Summary

Tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs remain a significant problem among adolescents in the United States. Pediatricians should screen and assess all adolescents on a yearly basis. If a problem is identified, there are many options for treatment, including pharmacologic treatment as well as individual, family, or group therapy in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

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