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Substance Use Treatment Programs

Literature Review: A product of the Model Programs Guide
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Youth substance use treatment programs aim to reduce alcohol and illicit drug use, and the misuse of licit drugs, in youths who have been clinically diagnosed with a substance use problem. These programs differ from prevention programs, which aim to promote abstinence in youths to prevent their initial or escalating use.[1] Treatment programs can take a multitude of approaches, such as court-based, residential-based, and family-inclusive programs to help youth develop skills and knowledge to reduce substance use (Drake, 2012; Van Ryzin et al., 2016; Winters, Botzet, and Fahnhorst, 2011).

Substance use disorder in youth is a prevalent problem. An estimated 2.8 percent (712,000) of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced an alcohol use disorder in the past year, and 6.3 percent (1.6 million) of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a substance use disorder in the past year (SAMSHA, 2021). However, the rate of utilization of substance use treatment programs is low. According to a study by Haughwout and colleagues (2016), fewer than 12 percent of youths who have a substance use disorder participate in treatment.

This literature review focuses on substance use disorder among youths under 18 and on the utilization of substance use treatment programs. The review describes the scope of substance use among youth, the theoretical base of substance-use treatment programs, risk factors that can lead to substance use disorders, protective factors that can buffer against substance use disorders, various types of treatment programs and outcome evidence, limitations to treatment programs, and the research currently available.

[1]For more information, see the Model Programs Guide literature review on Substance Use Prevention Programs.


Last Update: January 2023