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Substance Use Disorders and Adolescent Psychopathology

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Adolescence is a vulnerable developmental stage where significant changes occur in a youth’s body, brain, environment and socialization, which may increase vulnerability to substance use, development of addiction, and psychiatric disorders. A co-occurrence of mental and behavioral disturbances with drug involvement in adolescence is common, as reflected in both a high risk for drug use in youth with mental illness and a high frequency of psychopathology among drug users. In this review we provide a broad and basic overview of some of the research evidence indicating a strong co-occurrence of drug use disorders (abuse and dependence) with externalizing and internalizing disorders, as well as a few other serious mental health conditions among adolescents. Increasing awareness and knowledge of the high probability of the co-occurrence of mental and behavioral disturbances with drug involvement informs the understanding of the etiology, course, and treatment of psychiatric problems among adolescents.


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Correspondence to Carla L. Storr ScD, MPH.

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Storr, C.L., Pacek, L.R. & Martins, S.S. Substance Use Disorders and Adolescent Psychopathology. Public Health Rev 34, 10 (2012) doi:10.1007/BF03391678

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Key Words

  • adolescence
  • comorbidity
  • substance use disorder
  • psychiatric disorder