The mental health and substance use risks for teens are in many ways unique to their stage of life. Though on the cusp of adulthood, their mental, physical, and psychological development are on hyper-drive, and the challenges they face in today’s fast-paced, globally-connected world are significant.

Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge (PAATC) has been at the forefront of addiction recovery since its founding in 1958.  This Article is written by the addiction treatment experts about how teens facing addiction can benefit from dual diagnosis treatment.

Teens and Mental Health

The teenage years are formative. Physical, intellectual, and emotional changes, and a social landscape very different from childhood all factor into the vulnerability of this age group to mental health and substance use challenges. If you factor in things like poverty or abuse, then the risk of mental health consequences rises.

Protecting adolescents from risk factors is ideal but not always possible. Therefore, it’s essential to have a safety net, including schools, churches, and extended family, to support teens, and intervene if necessary.

Adolescents who suffer from mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, are also at greater risk for substance misuse and addiction.

Teens and Drug Addiction

Teens are vulnerable to all kinds of social pressures. Peer influence is more significant at this time of life than any other. The pressure to stay thin or excel in school can lead to abuse of prescription medication. Studies show that drug use in the media influences underage behaviors, even if the drug use depicted is not by teens.

But one of the top five reasons for teen drug and alcohol use is to cope with trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

Teens and Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is the addictive substance most widely used by adolescents, and alcohol use rises by age, as does the risk of drinking until drunk. Whereas fewer than 1% of twelve-year-olds have had a drink, about 16% of sixteen-year-olds have. By the time young people hit their twentieth birthday, nearly half of them have experimented with alcohol. That rise is steep.

Underage drinkers consume about 90% of their alcohol by binging. Binge drinking and underage drinking are both significant risk factors for alcohol addiction. If there is an underlying mental health diagnosis, that risk is even greater.

At PAATC, we understand the impact that drug and alcohol addiction have on teens and their families and have designed programs and services to help start your teen on the road to recovery. Reach out to learn more by calling 844.442.8673.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Self-medicating for pre-existing mental health challenges is a top cause of underage drug and alcohol use. If the underlying mental health diagnosis goes unrecognized and untreated, addiction becomes more likely. The term co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, refers to one person having two diagnoses, usually involving addiction and mental health because they affect similar areas of the brain. Between 40 and 60% of addicted individuals in the US have a co-occurring mental health diagnosis.

Mental disorders commonly co-occurring with substance misuse and addiction can find help through:

Only about 20% of teens who have a disorder like anxiety or depression receive treatment. Therefore, it is evident that the risk for substance misuse among teens with mental health challenges is notable.

Seek Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Teens

Experts agree that simultaneously treating co-occurring conditions is far more successful than treating one, and then the other, or providing simultaneous but uncoordinated treatment. Treating both disorders through dual diagnosis treatment is best. If one condition is left untreated, the risk of its worsening and affecting progress with the co-occurring disorder is significant. At PAATC, we do not offer dual certified treatment. However, we do offer dual-capable treatment for those over the age of 18.

An integrated treatment protocol carried out by collaborative and multi-disciplinary clinical teams allows for a consistent, patient-centered approach.

Teenagers can receive support in their journey from self-destructiveness to self-esteem at PAATC through treatment that addresses the whole person and the underlying causes. Using a professional, faith-based approach, our clinicians meet young people where they are, providing support in a safe, caring environment at our Pennsylvania rehab center . All our professionals know how to treat co-occurring conditions to safely shepherd teens out from addiction and to a place where their mental health issues receive treatment, and they can return to their lives. Reach out to us via our online form or by calling 844.442.8673 today.


Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge This article is written by the experts at Adult and Teen Challenge PA, a faith-based treatment program that began  in 1962 as a way to help those young people and adults who struggle with addiction get the help they need.