The Role of Pharmacotherapy in the Treatment of Adolescent Substance Use Disorders

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2016 Oct;25(4):685-711. doi: 10.1016/j.chc.2016.05.004. Epub 2016 Aug 2.


Adolescent substance use disorders (SUDs) are a significant public health issue due to the associated morbidity, mortality, and societal cost. While effective for some adolescents, psychosocial interventions generally produce small-to-moderate reductions in substance use. Most youth relapse within 12 months of treatment. One approach to improve outcomes is through adjunctive pharmacotherapy. Medication assisted treatments have been shown to improve adult SUD treatment outcomes, and preliminary studies in adolescents suggest that combining medication with psychosocial interventions may also enhance SUD outcomes for youth. This article presents a comprehensive review and grading of the evidence from studies conducted in adolescents with SUDs.

Keywords: Addiction; Adolescence; Development; Medication; Pharmacotherapy; Substance use disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome