Co-occurring Teen Depression and Substance Use Disorders

Depression occurs more often in teenagers thanMany of the symptoms of depression in adolescents are similar in adults. However, depression in teens manifests in some different ways.


some people may realize. Child Stats, a component of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics pointed out the following statistics on teen depression:

  • Teenagers dealing with depression in the past year are at greater risk for suicide and development of substance abuse disorders
  • In 2013, about 11 percent of the population aged 12 through 17 had a major depressive episode (MDE), up from 9 percent in 2004
  • The number of youth diagnosed with an MDE in the past year and receiving treatment for depression declined from 40 percent in 2004 to 38 percent in 2013
  • In each year between 2004 and 2013, the past-year prevalence of MDE among youth aged 12 to 17 was more than twice as high among females (12 to 16 percent) as among males (4 to 5 percent)

Another prominent issue facing teenagers with co-occurring mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders is trouble with law enforcement. According to the National Association of Mental Health Planning and Advisory Councils (NAMHPAC), J. Cocozza pointed out in “Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Youth in the Juvenile Justice System” that of the 2 million or more adolescents arrested each year “a high percentage of these youth experience both serious mental health and substance abuse problems.”

The number of adolescents troubled with depression and alcohol abuse or other co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders continues to increase. According to, 60 to 75 percent of teenagers with a substance abuse disorder also have a co-occurring mental illness. While researchers and treatment professionals do not always know whether the mental health illnesses or the substance abuse issues occur first in each patient, what is known is that adolescents with a mental health disorder often self-medicate with dangerous substances.

The importance of providing multidimensional treatment in a teenage rehabilitation center is stressed by officials with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. They reported that nearly every adolescent in a particular study about urban teenagers with unmet mental health needs “met criteria for a DSM-IV diagnosis and four out of five were diagnosed with multiple disorders.” They also pointed out that “even the best treatment practices can be undermined if providers are naive to co-occurring conditions or otherwise fail to implement multidimensional interventions for comorbid clients.”

Writing for the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, Elizabeth H. Hawkins stressed the need for integrated treatment programming that is individualized, flexible and allows the teenage rehabilitation center treatment and care coordination plan to include a variety of needed services.

With all of the problems facing young people in today’s world, dual diagnosis clinics for teens are critical for treating a demographic in crisis. These places have therapists and addiction treatment specialists working together to help patients overcome all of their problems in a comprehensive way to achieve full recovery.

Shared By:Sovereign Health Adolescent Program