Adolescent Substance Abuse and Mental Illness Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Psychiatric Disorders

There is a high correlation between youth with substance abuse problems and youth with mental illness. Often, the substance abuse is a means of self-medicating. There are a lot of potential underlying factors for this high comorbidity, but it is important to recognize that the comorbidity exists, and it has implications for treatment. Proper psychiatric care is often required in concert with addiction treatment interventions, in order to ensure that youth facing these issues are able to overcome their addictions.

Psychiatric Disorders

There are a number of psychiatric disorders that can occur with substance abuse during adolescence. For example, among those with an alcohol use disorder, 37% had comorbidity with a mental disorder. The odds are particularly high for multiple addictive disorders, such as drug use disorders. Some of the most common comorbidities with substance abuse disorders are antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders (Regier et al., 1990). In adolescents specifically, other disorders common are affective disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder and anxiety disorder, along with antisocial personality disorder (Bukstein et al., 1989)..


There is high comorbidity between drug use disorders and these psychiatric disorders. One of the reasons for this is statistical. Diagnosis of a mental disorder usually occurs "when symptoms have progressed to a specific level," but subclinical symptoms are typically what prompts the drug use. Thus, the drug use presents first, and only when that is investigated do the mental disorders become apparent. This skews the sample size, such that the two are clearly linked in a large number of cases (NIH, 2016).

The other factor is that mental illness is a causal factor in substance abuse. Drugs serve as a form of self-medication. There are also corollary factors as well, such as underlying brain deficits, genetic vulnerabilities and early exposure to stress or trauma. These factors have explanatory power for which the comorbidity between addiction and mental illness is so high (, 2016). There is involvement of similar brain regions for mental illness and substance abuse, highlighting the potential for a relationship between these things.

Combined Impact

Mental illness and substance abuse create enough problems for adolescents on their own, but can be devastating when combined. First, there is a necessity for mental health professionals to treat both together. When these are treated independently, there is greater risk that the treatment will not be effective, so that is one of the clinical implications of this…

Sources Used in Document:


Bukstein, O., Brent, D. & Kaminer, Y. (1989). Comorbidity of substance and other psychiatric disorders in adolescents. American Journal of Psychiatry. Vol. 146 (9) 1131-1141.

Greenbaum, P., Prange, M., Friedman, R. & Silver, S. (1991). Substance abuse prevalence and comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders among adolescents with severe emotional disturbances. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Vol. 30 (4) 575-583.

NIH (2011). Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental disorders. Retrieved April 11, 2016 from

NIH (2016). Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental illnesses. National Institute of Drug Abuse Retrieved April 11, 2016 from

Cite This Essay:

"Adolescent Substance Abuse And Mental Illness" (2016, April 11) Retrieved December 18, 2018, from

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