Substance Use Resource Center

Last updated July 2022


Substance Abuse Resource Center ImageSubstance use by teens is very common and can have serious consequences. Recurrent adolescent substance use contributes to personal distress, poor school performance, short and long term health problems, relationship difficulties, and involvement in antisocial activities. 

Some teenagers will develop severe substance use or become “addicted.” They can use more than they planned, struggle with cutting down or stopping use, or give up important activities in their lives. Some may even become tolerant (needing more of the substance to achieve the same effect) and experience withdrawal when they stop use. 

Teenagers who are simply experimenting with alcohol or drugs can die or suffer severe injuries, or acquire HIV or other infections, or become pregnant due to engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of the substance. 

Fortunately, prevention and treatment can make a difference. We know that the development of a substance use disorder is complex, involving interactions between biological and environmental risk factors. Many teenagers who have a substance use disorder can also have one or more psychiatric disorders. This knowledge has led to the development of effective ways to intervene. Parents and other concerned adults can help to bring science-based prevention strategies to their homes and communities. They can be alert to signs of substance use and seek treatments that can help. 

The goal of this resource center is to offer parents, doctors, and other clinicians with scientific information about the prevention and treatment of adolescent substance use. 

Choose a topic:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the signs of substance use?
  2. How can parents tell the difference between experimentation and a "real problem" with substance abuse?
  3. What should parents do first if they think their adolescent has a substance use problem?
  4. How is adolescent substance use treated?
  5. Is there anything that parents can do to prevent substance use?
  6. What is the connection between psychiatric disorders and substance use?
  7. Do drug tests have a role in adolescent substance use treatment?

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Facts for Families

AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information on issues that affect children, teenagers and their families.

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Video Clips

Seven short video clips detailing substance abuse prevention, treatment and how it connects with mental illnesses.

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Clinical Resources

AACAP Policy Statements

Medical Marijuana Policy Statement

Marijuana Legalization Policy Statement

Substance Use Rating Scales

This acronym stands for a well-tested, brief screening tool for adolescent substance abuse. It is available at no charge.

This is a simple method of screening for excessive drinking and helps identify excessive drinking as the cause of new mood or behavior problems. It also provides a way to intervene and help reduce or stop drinking and avoid the harmful consequences.

Screening to Brief Intervention (S2BI)
Brief Screener for Tobacco, Alcohol, and other Drugs (BSTAD)

The BSTAD and S2BI ask patients about frequency of past year use and triage them into one of three levels of substance use disorder risk: no reported use, lower risk and higher risk.

Cannabis Use Disorder Identification Test – Revised (CUDIT-R)

Treatment Resources

SAMHSA's website includes a searchable database for treatment facilities in the United States:

Other Resources

The federally funded websites listed below contain a wealth of information on prevention, evidence-based treatment, research, education materials and statistics related to adolescent substance use.

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Research and Training

Resources for Research Opportunities in Substance Use Treatment and Prevention

The Jeanne Spurlock Research Fellowship in Substance Use and Addiction for Minority Medical Students provides a stipend-supported summer research experience. It is sponsored by AACAP with support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has long been a primary source for funding and dissemination of high quality research on drug abuse and addiction. The website contains a wealth of information divided into sections geared toward researchers, health care providers, youth, parents and teachers.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at

Educational Activities

AACAP provides substance use related educational activities, including:

Click here to search the Annual Meeting Sessions

The NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) websites, listed above, are also excellent resources for practitioners, parents and youth seeking factual information about the causes, prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. The organizations listed below are good resources for conferences and other training activities featuring evidence-based treatment and prevention of substance use.

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

American Society of Addiction Medicine

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco

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AACAP's books: Your Child and Your Adolescent offer easy-to-understand and comprehensive information on the emotional development and behavior of children from infancy through the teen years.

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Getting Help

Substance Abuse Resource Center ImageGetting help is the most important thing that parents can do for children and adolescents with a mental health concern. Parents should try to find a mental health professional with advanced training and experience evaluating and treating children and adolescents with substance use problems. Also, it is important to find a comfortable match between your child, your family and the mental health professional.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders that affect children and adolescents. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed four years of medical school, and at least three years of residency training in medicine, neurology, or general psychiatry with adults, and two years of additional training in psychiatric work with children and adolescents.

Click here to find a child and adolescent psychiatrist in your area.

To learn about accessing child and adolescent psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, please read Where To Find Help For Your Child.

Oftentimes, parents are unsure when to seek a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist. For more information on when to seek a referral, please click here.

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