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Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Screening and Assessing Adolescents for Substance Use Disorders. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 31.)

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Screening and Assessing Adolescents for Substance Use Disorders.

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What Is a TIP?

Treatment Improvement Protocols (TIPs) are best practice guidelines for the treatment of substance use disorders, provided as a service of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). CSAT's Office of Evaluation, Scientific Analysis and Synthesis draws on the experience and knowledge of clinical, research, and administrative experts to produce the TIPs, which are distributed to a growing number of facilities and individuals across the country. The audience for the TIPs is expanding beyond public and private treatment facilities for substance use disorders as substance use disorders are increasingly recognized as a major problem.

The TIPs Editorial Advisory Board, a distinguished group of substance use disorder experts and professionals in such related fields as primary care, mental health, and social services, works with the State Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Directors to generate topics for the TIPs based on the field's current needs for information and guidance.

After selecting a topic, CSAT invites staff from pertinent Federal agencies and national organizations to a Resource Panel that recommends specific areas of focus as well as resources that should be considered in developing the content of the TIP. Then recommendations are communicated to a Consensus Panel composed of non-Federal experts on the topic who have been nominated by their peers. This Panel participates in a series of discussions; the information and recommendations on which they reach consensus form the foundation of the TIP. The members of each Consensus Panel represent treatment programs for substance use disorders, hospitals, community health centers, counseling programs, criminal justice and child welfare agencies, and private practitioners. A Panel Chair (or Co-Chairs) ensures that the guidelines mirror the results of the group's collaboration.

A large and diverse group of experts closely reviews the draft document. Once the changes recommended by these field reviewers have been incorporated, the TIP is prepared for publication, in print and online. The TIPs can be accessed via the Internet on the National Library of Medicine's home page at the URL: The move to electronic media also means that the TIPs can be updated more easily so they continue to provide the field with state-of-the-art information.

Although each TIP strives to include an evidence base for the practices it recommends, CSAT recognizes that the field of substance use disorder treatment is evolving, and published research frequently lags behind the innovations pioneered in the field. A major goal of each TIP is to convey "front-line" information quickly but responsibly. For this reason, recommendations proffered in the TIP are attributed to either Panelists' clinical experience or the literature. If there is research to support a particular approach, citations are provided.

This TIP, Screening and Assessing Adolescents for Substance Use Disorders, updates TIP 3, published in 1993, and presents information on identifying, screening, and assessing adolescents who use substances. Adolescents differ from adults both physiologically and emotionally as they make the transition from child to adult. Although experimentation with substances is common with this population, substance abuse can seriously impair development, leaving an adolescent unprepared for the demands of adulthood. Therefore, it is important for a wide range of professionals who come into regular contact with adolescents to recognize the signs of substance use. This TIP focuses on the most current procedures and instruments for detecting substance abuse among adolescents, conducting comprehensive assessments, and beginning treatment planning. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the document. Chapters 2 and 3 present appropriate strategies and guidelines for screening and assessment. An explanation of legal issues concerning Federal and State confidentiality laws appears in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 provides guidance for screening and assessing adolescents in juvenile justice settings. Appendix B summarizes instruments to screen and assess adolescents for substance abuse and general functioning domains, many of them updated since 1993. Appendix C excerpts a 1998 publication on drug testing juvenile detainees prepared under a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Other TIPs may be ordered by contacting SAMHSA's National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), (800) 729-6686 or (301) 468-2600; TDD (for hearing impaired), (800) 487-4889.


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