Youth Addiction

Unfortunately, addiction is often called the disorder of young people because nearly 90% of adults who struggle with substance misuse started as teenagers. If we are able to successfully treat teens who are struggling with substance misuse we can have a profound impact not only on their development, but we can positively impact their adult life and increase their chances of long-term success.


Adolescent Addiction

Sadly, very few teens receive treatment at all. In fact, 1.3 million adolescents need treatment each year but only 6% receive any kind of specialized care. National studies have shown that only 30% of substance use providers offer adolescent treatment and of those, very few offer anything approximating evidence-based care. To combat the epidemic of drug addiction we need to focus our efforts on providing effective, proven treatments for our most vulnerable citizens, children and adolescents. With our Training Support System we are able to help you and your agency learn, and successfully implement, Contingency Management for Youth Addiction (CM-YA), an evidence-based, outpatient family treatment designed with the unique needs of the teenager in mind.

Treatment Needs to Match Teens Developmental Needs

The majority of youth in need of substance misuse treatment do not receive any treatment. Of those who do receive treatment very few will receive treatment designed for their unique developmental needs. Therefore, adolescents in need of treatment often face significant barriers in accessing quality, effective, developmentally appropriate treatment services. The CM-YA treatment program was designed with the specific needs of the adolescent in mind, with interventions tailored to their developmental stage with strong family involvement.

Impact of Drug Use in Teens

Adolescent substance abuse can have significant short- and long-term effects on their social, emotional, physical, and educational development. Teens who abuse drugs are at a higher risk for emotional problems, behavioral problems, addiction and dependence, risky sexual activity, learning problems, diseases, brain injury, car accidents, and poor school performance. Teens who abuse drugs are less likely to achieve college degrees and struggle more to keep and maintain employment.

We need to involve the Family in treatment

Youth are twice as likely to develop substance abuse if they experience struggles in their home life. Specifically, youth from homes with high conflict, low warmth, inconsistent expectations, poor monitoring, and access to negative peers have an increased risk of substance abuse. By involving the family in treatment you can target these risk factors and increase the chances of success. Unfortunately, only slightly more than half of all treatment programs include the family in sessions. With CM-YA the family is included in every stage of treatment.


Common Signs of Drug Use:

Things others might see:

  • Friends that use drugs or have problems in school
  • Friends that have been arrested
  • Older friends that are not working or going to school
  • Rapid or unusual changes in mood
  • Poor coordination
  • Slowed or rapid speech
  • Inability to remember recent events
  • Avoiding contact with caregivers after a night out with friends
  • Fast or slowed behavior and reaction times
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleepiness
  • Apathy
  • Being silly for no reason
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Poor sports performance
  • Poor school performance
  • Increase in breaking curfew or other household rules
  • Lingering odors of marijuana or attempts to cover up odors
  • Youth or family member’s money is missing
  • Clothing or property that promotes drug use

Things the youth might report (in addition to the above symptoms):

  • Hanging out with friends who use drugs or do poorly in school
  • Hanging out with friends who get in trouble with the law
  • Hanging out with older friends that are not working or going to school
  • Racing or slowed thoughts
  • Racing heart rate (stimulants, cocaine)
  • Unusual thoughts or paranoid beliefs
  • Feeling disconnected from reality
  • Lack of motivation


Bold italics denote important clinical factors that are frequently linked with youth drug use and relapse.