Adolescent Health: Substance Use

Katy Miller, Lauren McPherson, Janna Gewirtz O'Brien, Maria V Svetaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Substance use in adolescents affects brain development and can influence health in adulthood. The substances most commonly used by adolescents are alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. Adolescent alcohol use has been shown to inhibit and alter normal brain development, and has been associated with alcohol use disorder and other mental disorders in adulthood. Cannabis use during adolescence has been associated with adverse mental health outcomes. Adolescents may incorrectly assume that the negative health effects of smoking will not affect them. Electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes, for vaping may be used to inhale nicotine, cannabis, or both. Strong family relationships and parental monitoring are protective factors against substance use. Screening at every preventive services visit is an essential element of adolescent care. The evidence-based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) strategy has been shown to decrease substance use and its adverse effects in adolescents. On societal and community levels, family physicians have numerous opportunities to advocate for adolescent well-being and prevention of substance use. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that family physicians advocate for legislation and governmental policies that facilitate the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of substance use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-32
Number of pages7
JournalFP essentials
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Written permission from the American Academy of Family Physicians is required for reproduction of this material in whole or in part in any form or medium.


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