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Treatment for Substance Use Reduces Depression/Anxiety in Adolescents

January 10, 2015
Horigian VE, Weems CF, Robbins MS, et al
Horigian VE, Weems CF, Robbins MS, et al.  Reductions in Anxiety and Depression Symptoms in Youth Receiving Substance Use Treatment.  American Journal on Addictions 2013;22(4):329-337. doi: 10.1111/j.1521-0391-.2013.12031.x
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  • Adolescent drug abuse continues to represent one of the most serious public health issues in the U.S.
  • Without effective treatments, substance-using teens are at increased risk for medical and legal problems, incarceration, suicide, school difficulties, unemployment, and poor interpersonal relationships.

Because many youth with substance use disorders (SUD) also have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression, finding interventions that address both problems seems paramount to effective treatment. This investigation of data from the NIDA CTN study on Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) aimed to examine the prevalence and reductions of anxiety and depressive symptoms among youth receiving treatment for SUD.

Results of the analysis found significant reductions in the prevalence of probable diagnosis for Major Depression, Social Anxiety, and Separation Anxiety in adolescents receiving treatment for their substance use disorders. Though the original study compared the use of Brief Strategic Family Therapy to treatment-as-usual, this analysis found similar effects of both interventions on adolescent use, with reductions most significant for Caucasian teens.

Conclusions: This study shows that community-based drug abuse treatments may help reduce the prevalence of anxiety and depression in youth, as well as the probability of diagnoses among adolescents. This discovery has important clinical implications, as teens with comorbid substance use and mental health problems are at very high risk for continued comorbid problems into adulthood.

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