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Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2006 Jan-Mar;18(1):9-13.

Psychotherapy in the treatment of alcohol and substance abusing adolescents with suicidal behavior.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Adolescence is a unique time period in an individual's life, one in which suicide and substance abuse become substantial health risks. Currently, suicide accounts for approximately 14% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds in the U.S.A. Drug, alcohol abuse and dependence are the most prevalent causes of adolescent morbidity and mortality in the USA. Numerous studies have demonstrated the link between adolescent alcohol, substance abuse and suicide. When compared to community controls, the rate of a substance abuse disorder was 8.5 times higher in a sample of adolescent suicide completers and the rate of alcohol abuse was 7.5 times higher. Genetic and biological variables may also be responsible for either alcohol and substance abuse or suicide or both alcohol and substance abuse and suicide. There is little empirical research evaluating the effectiveness of alcohol and substance abuse treatments for adolescents. Therapies such as multisystemic therapy, functional family therapy, motivational interviewing, community reinforcement, the 12-step approach and contingency management reinforcement seem to be effective treatments. Despite the strong association between adolescent alcohol and substance use and suicidal behaviors, few studies have investigated the combined treatment of these two issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy, particularly dialectical behavior therapy, seems to be a promising psychotherapy treatment for suicidality in alcohol and substance abusing adolescents. Further research is needed to determine the efficacy of various treatments of alcohol and substance abusing adolescents with suicidal behavior.

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