Adolescent substance abuse and psychiatric comorbidities.J Clin Psychiatry. 2006; 67 Suppl 7:18-23.JC
Substance use disorders have a serious impact on adolescents because these disorders have high prevalence rates and frequent associations with psychiatric disorders. Surveys of adolescent behaviors and substance use show that alcohol is the most common substance abused by adolescents. Despite the high rates of current alcohol use and binge drinking among adolescents, current diagnostic criteria are problematic. Adolescents may have a developing problem with substance dependence but not meet criteria for either substance abuse or dependence. At-risk adolescents, called "diagnostic orphans," may meet only 1 or 2 criteria for alcohol dependence and no abuse criteria and therefore do not receive an alcohol use disorder diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Adolescents with substance use disorders tend to have higher rates of comorbid psychiatric disorders and are more likely to report a history of trauma and physical and/or sexual abuse than adolescents without a substance use disorder. In addition, psychiatric disorders in adolescents often predate the substance use disorder. Once the substance use disorder develops, the psychiatric disorder may be further exacerbated.