Abnormal Child & Adolescent Psychology

Resources for Introduction to Abnormal Child & Adolescent Psychology (4th edition)

10. Substance Use Problems in Adolescents

Learning Objectives

Substance Use & Substance Use Disorders

Describe the key features of substance use and substance-induced disorders in adolescents, and explain how adolescent and adult substance use problems differ.

Determine the prevalence of adolescent substance use and how prevelance varies as a function of age, gender, and ethnicity.



Describe the physiological and psychological effects of alcohol, cannabis, and nicotine on adolescents.

Outline three developmental pathways for the emergence of substance use problems from childhood through adolescence.

Evidence-Based Treatment

Explain how clinicians screen adolescents for substance use problems and use motivational enhancement to increase adolescents' willingness to reduce potentially harmful behavior.

Differentiate among the major approaches to treating adolescent substance use problems including 12-step treatment, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and relapse prevention.

Note: The number before each objective shows its corresponding module in the text.


Adolescent Substance Use

Smashed: Toxic Tales of Teens and Alcohol is a documentary produced by HBO and co-sponsored by Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD).

Psychosocial Treatment

In this excellent video for parents, Dr. Ken Winters (University of Minnesota) discusses evidence-based psychosocial treatments for adolescents with substance use problems.  

Multidimensional Family Therapy

This video shows segments of a session with Dr. Howard Liddle (developer of MDFT) and a family experiencing substance use problems.

Screening: CRAFFT

The CRAFFT is an instrument used to screen adolescents for substance use problems. In this video, Dr. John Knight (the developer of the CRAFFT) shows the instrument and presents several case studies of its use with adolescents at low, moderate, and high risk for problems.

Brief Intervention

Screening, Brief Intervention, & Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is an evidence-based approach to identifying and helping youths with substance use problems. This excellent video demonstrates brief intervention with a young adolescent.

Motivational Enhancement

Motivational enhancement can be used to help at-risk increase their willingness to change their current patterns of substance use. As you watch the video, try to identify the four components of motivational enhancement shown by the therapist.

Learn More


SIMmersion allows you to practice motivational enhancement strategies with a virtual adolescent who is engaging in potentially problematic marijuana use. Your decisions determine the success or failure of the session. The program gives you hints along the way and reviews each principle as you practice it. 

Substance Use Problems Screening Measures

Helping Give Away Psychological Science (HGAPS) is a student-based organization that is dedicated to providing the best information about psychological science to the public. The HGAPS Assessment Center provides rating scales to screen adolescents and adults for substance use problems (e.g., CRAFFT, POSIT). You can complete the scales online and learn how clinicians use them to help individuals in need.

Effective Child Therapy: Substance Use Disorders

The Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (APA Division 53) summarizes the latest research on substance use disorders and their evidence-based treatment. Their site provides detailed descriptions and videos of the most efficacious treatments available. It's the best place to go to learn more about substance use disorders in adolescents.

Monitoring the Future

Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. MTF data are used to determine substance use norms and trends among youth in the United States. You can read overviews of their most recent studies or access the full length reports to answer specific questions about adolescent substance use.

National Institute on Drug Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, maintains an excellent website about substance use, abuse, and dependence in the United States. On this site, you can find information about all of the major classes of drugs, their effects on the body, and ways to treat substance use disorders. Try beginning with the section entitled, “Students and Young Adults” for introductory information on nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana. Then, explore the NIDA site entitled, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, to learn more about the biological bases of addictive behavior.

Partnership for a Drug Free America

The Partnership for a Drug Free America’s website is a clearinghouse for information concerning substance use and abuse among youths in the United States. The site also offers personal accounts of substance use problems in video format.