The use of addictive substances—tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs—during adolescence interferes with brain development and increases the risk of serious health and mental health conditions, including addiction. Yet, adolescents live in a culture in which family, social, community, and media influences regularly bombard them with pro-substance use messages, creating an environment in which substance use is considered an expected behavior, rather than a considerable health risk. To prevent the significant harm that falls to teens and young adults because of substance use, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) undertook a study to explore how adolescent brain development relates to the risk of substance use and addiction; the cultural influences that create an environment in which substance use is considered normative behavior; individual factors that make some teens more disposed to substance use and addiction; and evidence-based prevention and treatment strategies for addressing this problem. The recently published report Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem concludes that risky substance use is a major public health problem that can be ameliorated through evidence-based public health measures, including education about the disease and its risk factors, screenings, and clinical interventions, and that addiction can be treated and managed effectively within routine health care practice and specialty care.
J Adolesc Health. 2012 May 01. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.12.033.