Adolescent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment Trends

Teen Substance Abuse and Mental Health - Freedom From Addiction

As part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) functions to reduce substance abuse and mental illness throughout the country’s communities. As part of this focus, SAMHSA produces a periodic snapshot of America’s behavioral health. Called The Behavioral Health Barometer: United States, this document uses collected data to provide a snapshot of the present situation toward reduction of the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on communities throughout America.

Adolescent substance abuse and mental health are a focus of one section of this report. Statistics are gained from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services to summarize how youth of the country are responding to available methods of prevention, education and treatment. This data also clarifies where programs must focus for continuing and future alleviation of the country’s adolescent substance abuse and mental health problems.

Adolescent Substance Abuse


Adolescent substance abuse of marijuana in the month prior to being surveyed increased among 12 to 17 year olds when the survey was conducted each year from 2008 to 2011. In 2012 to 2013, however, this group decreased their marijuana use. This is promising, although usage in 2013 was at 7.1% of all adolescents aged 12 to 17.

The targeted percentage of use as part of the Healthy People 2020 substance abuse reduction program is 6%, leaving the teen group 1.1% above national goals. Increased use is seen in adolescents at the 8th grade level with that use increasing for each grade through high school graduation.

Non-Medical Pain Reliever Use

Adolescent substance abuse of pain relievers in the prior year is indicated to have decreased from 2002 to 2013 for both males and females aged 12 to 17. For males, use in the prior year dropped from 11.6% in 2002 to 8.4% in 2013. Females decreased use in the prior year from 7.4% to 5.6%.

Illicit Drug Use

In 2013, 8.8% of youth aged 12 to 17 used illicit drugs in the month before survey. This is a decrease from 2009’s percentage of 10.1%. Caucasian and hispanic youth significantly decreased use, while black youth only dropped by 0.3% in the prior four years.

Cigarette Smoking

In 2013, white youth showed more than double use of cigarettes when compared to all other ethnicities. In America, 7.2% of white youths smoked cigarettes one month before the survey. Overall, cigarette use of young people aged 12 to 17 decreased from 9 to 5.6%, from 2009 to 2013.

Binge Alcohol Use

From 2008 to 2013, both males and females decreased their binge alcohol use from 8.9% to 6.2%. The Healthy People 2020 target is 8.6%. Since 2010, binge drinking rates have been lower than the 2020 target range.

Adolescent Mental Health

American youth indicate a pattern in major depressive episodes, as part of which females are both more likely to experience major depression and more likely to seek treatment for their depressive episode. Three times as many females experienced major depression in 2013 than males. Of the females who were depressed, 40.9% gained treatment, while only 29.7% of the males were treated.

Freedom From Addiction and Depression

The SAMHSA compiled survey results indicate that American adolescents are still struggling with substance abuse, addiction and depression. All of these are treatable health risks, with addiction often accompanied by underlying mental health issues. There’s a potential for a bright, productive and healthy future for these adolescents. Treatment is the key to that future. Let Freedom From Addiction help you find the treatment you need.

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