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A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Substance Abuse Treatment

Overview of Teen Substance Abuse

Teen substance abuse is a condition in which teens’ over-administration of a substance (be it legal or illegal) leads to an array of negative effects in their lives and functioning.  Sometimes the substance may be an illegal drug or under-the-age drinking of alcohol; however, it may also be a legal substance, which the teens do not take in accordance to healthy limits and/or frequency.  Along these lines, it’s important to understand that it’s the behavior, and not the substance, which constitutes the abuse.


Teen substance abuse can be connected with a wide range of symptoms, depending on the teen, the substance, and the nature of the abuse.  However, teen substance abuse can affect just about all aspects of teens’ lives, including their physical, mental, spiritual, and relational health.  Some of these symptoms and effects include: moodiness; difficulty in school/ decline in quality of school work; abrupt change in relationships/friendships; anxiety and depression; failure to meet responsibilities and commitments; poor and/or apathetic attitude toward relationships and responsibilities.

It’s important to recognize that because substance abuse tends to negatively affect both teens’ moods and their relationships with others, these problematic behaviors often are very disruptive to the lives of others, in the teens’ lives.  This is especially true for parents and family members, who have close proximity to the teens’ and see the negative effects which substance abuse has, over time.

Teen Substance Abuse Treatment

Teen substance abuse treatment often involves a combination of individual and group talk therapy, behavioral therapy, and medication.  During talk therapy sessions, therapists support teens to address the nature of their addiction, including evaluating the things that trigger them to use the substance, and other emotional aspects that are connected to the behavior.  Therapists and teens also evaluate the behavior, and the effects that the behavior has on their lives.  Because this process of teens coming to terms both with their addiction, their behavior, and its effects in their lives, can be difficult and multi-faceted, it’s often extremely beneficial for teens to work individually as well as in groups.

Paradigm Austin

At Paradigm Austin, we facilitate both family group and peer group sessions, as part of our teen substance abuse treatment programs.  In family groups, we support conversation to take place in a safe, supportive environment, where both teens and their family members can talk about the nature and effects of the teens’ substance abuse.  In peer groups, therapists assist teens to explore and share as a group, their current experiences, struggles, victories, and feelings regarding their substance abuse and their treatment process.

In some cases, therapists prescribe medication for teens struggling with substance abuse issues.  Sometimes these medications may be directed toward mood symptoms, such as instances where teens are also suffering from a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety or depression.