Detail of hands folded at teen therapy session

Mental Health & Substance Use

When a teen develops a substance abuse problem, the first question a parent might ask is: “Why?” For some teens, substance misuse often develops due to an underlying mental health issue. In a desperate attempt to find relief, these teens attempt to medicate their own illnesses using the only tools they can find: drugs and alcohol.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers found that 82 percent of teens who entered a treatment program for substance use disorders also met the criteria for a mental health disorder. The problem is complex, and it can be hard for parents to even think about, but teens who have co-occurring disorders like this can get better. They’ll just need access to specialized programs in order to reach their goals.

These underlying issues can include adverse childhood events, negative or traumatic experiences, family history, undiagnosed or poorly managed psychiatric disorders, and other factors. As a front-line adolescent mental healthcare provider, Muir Wood is highly focused on addressing the link between mental health disorders and substance use, working to redefine the perception and treatment of dual-diagnosis disorders. 

For the individuals and families suffering the effects of adolescent substance use and mental health disorders, there is little or no distinction between these related conditions. However, many people perceive mental health and substance use disorders as separate disorders, and each is differently stigmatized. Muir Wood clients regularly present with mental health and substance use disorders, and the treatment of these conditions is similar. Helping parents and referring professionals understand the interrelation between these disorders can dispel old thinking and shift focus to the bigger adolescent health picture. Championing stigma reduction is a far-reaching cause, and Muir Wood is working to challenge old ideas and stereotypes.