Treating substance misuse in young people

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Final version published as: 

Schwartz, C., Barican, J., Yung, D., Gray-Grant, D., & Waddell, C. (2018). Treating substance misuse in young people. Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly, 12(2), 1–16. Vancouver, BC: Children’s Health Policy Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

Date created: 

Background: At any given time, an estimated 2.4% of Canadian youth use alcohol or drugs at a level that qualifies for a substance use disorder diagnosis, with alcohol and cannabis problems being the most common. Given that substance use disorders take a tremendous toll on young people and can become entrenched, effective interventions need to be provided early in life.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized control trials (RCTs) evaluating interventions designed to treat adolescent substance use disorders.  Applying our inclusion criteria to the 104 studies identified from our searches, we accepted eight RCTs.

Results: The following seven community-based treatments showed evidence of success: Adolescent Cannabis Check-Up, Case Management, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Community Reinforcement, Ecologically Based Family Therapy, Motivational Interviewing and Multidimensional Family Therapy. Of these, CBT, Multidimensional Family Therapy and Motivational Interviewing had particularly strong evidence of effectiveness, with positive outcomes from multiple RCTs.

Conclusions: There are many effective interventions for treating youth substance misuse. By intervening at this early point in the lifespan, it is possible to avert far more serious problems later in life.

You are free to copy, distribute and transmit this work under the following conditions: You must give attribution to the work (but not in any way that suggests that the author endorses you or your use of the work); You may not use this work for commercial purposes; You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. Any further uses require the permission of the rights holder (or author if no rights holder is listed). These rights are based on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License.