A commentary on the impact of COVID-19 on engagement of youth with substance use and co-occurring psychiatric disorders

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2021 Feb;121:108175. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2020.108175. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Adolescents and young adults (AYA) with substance use disorders (SUD) have low rates of engagement and retention in SUD treatment (Mericle et al., 2015). Engagement and retention refers to treatment attendance and regular communication with providers. The reason for this low rate is multifactorial and includes the stigma surrounding SUD and treatment (Bagley, Hadland, Carney, & Saitz, 2017), and challenges accessing developmentally appropriate treatment (Mericle et al., 2015; Sterling, Weisner, Hinman, & Parthasarathy, 2010). Yet engaging AYA early in their trajectory of substance use offers an invaluable opportunity to minimize the short-term and long-term consequences of use (Compton et al., 2019; Levy, Williams, & Prevention, C. on S. U. A., 2016). As specialists in pediatric addiction, we made significant changes in how we provide care for youth in treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following commentary, we discuss the potential positive and negative impacts of those changes and suggestions for future research.

Keywords: Adolescents and young adults; COVID-19; Substance use disorder; Telemedicine; Youth.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Comorbidity*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Pediatrics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Telemedicine*
  • Young Adult