Substance Use + Mental Health in Teens & Young Adults: Your Guide to Recognizing & Addressing Co-occurring Disorders


Free, Online Resource Offers Insights that Can Help Families Get Diagnosis and Treatment Their Teens and Young Adults Need

NEW YORK, NY (February 12, 2019) – Center on Addiction, (which recently merged with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids), and the Child Mind Institute have developed Substance Use + Mental Health in Teens & Young Adults: Your Guide to Recognizing & Addressing Co-occurring Disorders.This new resource was introduced last week at a breakfast briefing for key supporters, including mental health professionals, parents, educators, and behavioral health and addiction specialists.

Substance Use + Mental Health in Teens & Young Adults features information on common mental health disorders in young people, tips on identifying substance misuse, and practical advice about evaluation and treatment when a young person is struggling with both. These are commonly called co-occurring disorders, comorbid disorders or dual diagnosis. The free guide can be downloaded at both and

Research shows that 30 – 45 percent of adolescents with mental health disorders have a co-occurring substance use disorder, and approximately 65 percent of youth with substance use disorders also have a mental health disorder. Untreated, co-occurring disorders increase risk for self-harm. Symptoms of substance misuse and mental health disorders often mimic each other, which can complicate diagnosis. Accurate diagnosis and treatment planning may require a clinician with addiction expertise.

According to the new guide, integrated care — combining primary care, mental health and substance use services — for co-occurring disorders offers the best long-term prognosis. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in encouraging treatment for their child or young adult and supporting them during the treatment process.

Key topics explored in the new guide include:

  • Criteria for substance use disorders and how to differentiate substance use and mental health symptoms
  • Symptoms of common mental health disorders and how they interact with substances like alcohol, nicotine and marijuana
  • How parents can help young people want to get help for co-occurring disorders
  • Guidelines for quality diagnosis and treatment
  • An exploration of the family’s role in supporting young people in treatment
  • Additional resources for parents who want to learn more or get help

“The combination of substance use and mental health disorders can be incredibly challenging, and often becomes overwhelming,” said Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute. “We hope this guide will help parents and caregivers gain a better understanding, so that they will feel empowered to pursue treatment and support teens and young adults through that process. The goal is to help young people get diagnosed and into treatment, with a support system that will help them succeed in their recovery.”

“It can be very difficult to figure out what may be behind a young person’s change in behavior, especially when substance use and mental health are both factors,” said Fred Muench, PhD, president of Center on Addiction and former president and CEO, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “We want to give parents and caregivers the information, insights and resources to feel confident in their ability to identify warning signs and take appropriate action when concerns arise.”

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