Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Substance Abuse / Chemical Dependence

Substance Abuse / Chemical Dependence

What is substance abuse/chemical dependence?

There are three different terms used to define substance-related disorders, including the following:

What substances are most often abused by adolescents?

Substances frequently abused by adolescents include, but are not limited to, the following:

What causes substance abuse/chemical dependence?

Cultural and societal norms influence acceptable standards of substance use. Public laws determine the legality of the use of substances. Substance-related disorders in adolescence are caused by multiple factors including genetic vulnerability, environmental stressors, social pressures, individual personality characteristics, and psychiatric problems. However, determining which of these factors are most to blame in adolescent populations has not been determined.

Who is affected by substance abuse/chemical dependence?

Parental and peer substance use are two of the more common factors contributing to youthful decisions regarding substance use. 

Some adolescents are more at risk of developing substance-related disorders, including adolescents with one or more of the following conditions present:

What are the symptoms of substance abuse/chemical dependence?

The following behaviors may indicate an adolescent is having a problem with substance abuse. However, each adolescent may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of substance abuse may resemble other medical problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your adolescent's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is substance abuse/chemical dependence diagnosed?

A pediatrician, family physician, psychiatrist, or qualified mental health professional usually diagnoses substance abuse in adolescents. However, adolescent substance abuse is believed by some to be the most commonly missed pediatric diagnosis. Adolescents who use drugs are most likely to visit a physician's office with no obvious physical findings. Substance abuse problems are more likely to be discovered by physicians when adolescents are injured in accidents occurring while under the influence, or when they are brought for medical services because of intentional efforts to hurt themselves. Clinical findings often depend on the substance abused, the frequency of use, and the length of time since last used, and may include the following:

Treatment for substance abuse/chemical dependence

Specific treatment for substance abuse/chemical dependence will be determined by your adolescent's doctor based on:

A variety of treatment programs for substance abuse are available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Programs considered are usually based on the type of substance abused. Medical detoxification (if needed, based on the substance abused) and long-term follow-up management are important features of successful treatment. Long-term follow-up management usually includes formalized group meetings and age-appropriate psychosocial support systems, as well as continued medical supervision. Individual and family psychotherapy are often recommended to address the developmental, psychosocial, and family issues that may have contributed to and resulted from the development of a substance abuse disorder.

Prevention of substance abuse/chemical dependence

There are three major approaches used to prevent adolescent substance use and abuse, including the following:

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