The first step when you suspect your teen has a substance abuse problem is to have your child screened by a experienced medical doctor, certified substance abuse counselor, or an addiction specialist. Once a diagnosis is made that the teen has a substance abuse disorder, they will be referred for treatment, which helps them stop using the drugs they are addicted to.

In March 2014 the Academy of Pediatrics recommended substance abuse screening as part of all adolescent care using the universal Screening for Substance Use, Brief Intervention and/or Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) guidelines designed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. A pediatrician can give positive feedback to a teen who hasn’t yet been involved in alcohol and drug use and encourage behavior changes or refer to treatment for those who have been found with a substance abuse disorder.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT)

SBIRT is a comprehensive, integrated public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for persons with substance use disorders, as well as those at risk of developing these disorders. Where are intervention services provided for the at-risk substance user before more serious consequences occur? At primary care centers, hospital emergency rooms, trauma centers, and other community settings.

  • Screening: Quickly evaluates the severity of substance use and identifies the appropriate level of treatment.
  • Brief intervention: focuses on increasing insight and awareness for substance use and motivation toward changes in behavior.
  • Referral to treatment: Provides those identified as in need of more extensive treatment with access to specialty care.

Research shows that to ensure success for most patients, treatment should combine treatment medications, where available, with behavioral therapy. Today with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) many youth covered under a parent’s health insurance policy are able to receive addiction treatment and care until they are 26. After that the teen can get insurance on his own that will cover his treatment needs. The ACA requires insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse disorder treatment at the same level they’d cover any other medical treatment. Without treatment, a teen may not enter recovery and get back on track at school or work to build the life she hoped to.

Recovery is when a person quits taking drugs and starts to learn how to live their life without drugs. Substance abuse addiction is typically a chronic disease. While helping your teen fight this battle, remember that:

Relapse is common – Relapse prevention services may increase the success of long-term recovery.

Long-term or repeated episodes of care for long-term abstinence and recovery are very important – Stopping drug use for a few days does not guarantee being cured. People can recover from drug addiction, but they must be aware of their addiction and work on not using again. Those who are treated for a substance abuse disorder or addiction will have a life of recovery.

If you are seeking treatment for your child, please call VAYA Health 1-800-849-6127. (Toll free 24/7)

Having a crisis? Need immediate help? Call 1-800-849-6127. (Toll free 24/7)

Tiene una crisis? ¿Necesita ayuda inmediata? Llame al 1-800-849-6127. (Llamada gratuita 24/7)

Mobile Crisis Management 1-800-573-1006

You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for information on hotlines, counseling services, or treatment options in your State. Information is also available in Spanish.

Drug treatment programs by State also may be found online at:

For information on Recovery and Celebrating Recovery Month, go to this link:

Teens can live a successful life when they are able to receive treatment and the support of family and friends while in recovery!