Background: Adolescents are at elevated risk for using and experimenting with substances such as alcohol,
nicotine and marijuana. Research has demonstrated not only the harmful effects of these drugs on the developing brain,
but that individuals with early use have a higher risk for substance use disorders (SUD’s) later in life. Given the current
prevalence of substance use among youth, resources are needed to study, develop, and implement safe and effective
treatment modalities. Because of the dearth of conventional medications for SUD’s, alternative methods of treatment must
be explored. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a growing field with an ever-increasing evidence base.
Method: This paper presents a qualitative review of the present-day use of CAM within adolescents, and creates a
conceptualization for its potential in treating substance use disorders.
Results: Mindfulness and yoga were found to have the largest evidence base, with limited current support for the use of
acupuncture and supplements such as melatonin and St. John’s Wort. Further research is warranted to determine the true
efficacy of these treatments in the adolescent population.
Conclusions: With the favorable safety profile of many of these forms of treatment, their use should be considered despite
the limited evidence, especially in those who have failed other options.