Drug Strategies Studies Impact of Treating Teens, Updating Its Guide to Teen Substance Abuse-Treatment Programs

Field of Work: Expanding quality addiction treatment for teens.

Problem Synopsis: According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, more than 1 million youth ages 12 to 17 needed treatment for an illicit drug problem in 2001, but only one in 10 actually received help, compared to one in five adults.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2003 to 2006, Drug Strategies conducted three projects that followed up on their 2003 guide, Treating Teens: A Guide to Adolescent Drug Programs. Drug Strategies: analyzed data collected in a survey of the 144 programs conducted to produce the guide, which enabled them to determine how well each incorporated nine elements of high-quality care; communicated information about adolescent substance abuse-treatment programs to both professional audiences and the general public through journal articles, testimony before Congress, conference presentations and television tags; and conducted a follow-up telephone survey of the 138 programs in the Treating Teens guide that remained in operation.

Key Findings

Drug Strategies found:

  • Most of the 144 programs were not adequately addressing the key elements of adolescent substance abuse treatment. The analysis found needs for improvement in:
    • Use of standardized assessment instruments.
    • Ability to engage and retain youth.
    • Attention to gender and cultural competence.
    • Investment in scientific evaluation of treatment outcomes.
  • Some 19 (16%) of the 120 programs in the two-year follow-up survey reported they made changes directly related to the publication of Treating Teens. Areas of change included:
    • Improved staff training.
    • Changes to client assessments.
    • Changes to programming (adding gender-specific, bilingual/multicultural components).
    • More involvement in federal grants and studies.
    • New outcomes evaluation initiatives.