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Adolescent substance abuse: a review of the past 10 years.

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  • 1National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD, USA.



To review and synthesize the recent scientific literature on adolescent substance abuse, covering natural history, epidemiology, etiology, comorbidity, assessment, treatment, and prevention, and to highlight areas for future research.


Studies of adolescent substance abuse were reviewed with the focus on substance abuse and dependence rather than substance use.


There has been a sharp recent resurgence in adolescent drug use. Biological factors, including genetic and temperament characteristics, as well as family environment factors, are emerging as important etiological variables. Comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, particularly with conduct disorder, is frequent and complicates treatment. New assessment instruments are available for clinical and research use. Among treatment modalities, family-based interventions have received the most study.


The past decade has seen growth in the volume and sophistication of research on adolescent substance abuse and in the conceptualization of this problem. Further research is needed, particularly on the significance of comorbid conditions and on individualized and effective treatment approaches.

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