Addiction in adolescents

West J Med. 1990 May;152(5):543-6.


Some symptoms seen in adolescents with the disease of chemical dependence are similar to those seen in adults. Because of their age, lack of personality development, dependent family role, immaturity, and acting out of age-related behavioral tendencies, however, symptoms specific to this population occur. These may become exacerbated and telescope--intensify and shorten--the progression of the disease. A plan to solve the problem of adolescent chemical dependence must focus on education, demonstration, cooperation, prevention, intervention, habilitation, treatment, and recovery. The phenomenon of denial in a chemically dependent adolescent yields a more complex delusional system that dictates age-specific intervention approaches. Habilitation is necessary for successful adolescent treatment and recovery because what is needed is an initial process of learning, not relearning or rehabilitation. If specific adolescent issues are addressed through comprehensive, multimodality treatment approaches, then treatment and recovery outcomes for chemically dependent adolescents and their families are substantially improved. Primary care physicians must be alert to the possibility of drug use in their young patients and aware of treatment options.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Primary Health Care
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*