Substance Use in Adolescents Presenting to the Emergency Department

Author(s): Edore Onigu-Otite*, Miju Kurtzweil, Veronica Tucci, Nidal Moukaddam.

Journal Name: Adolescent Psychiatry

Volume 9 , Issue 2 , 2019

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Background: Adolescent substance use is a dynamic public health problem. Adolescence is a unique developmental period involving overlapping biological, psychological, and social factors which increase the rates of initiation of substance use. The developing adolescent brain is particularly susceptible to the effects of substances and most adults with substance use disorders began to have symptoms and problems in their adolescent years. Yet, for various reasons, most adolescents who use, misuse, abuse, or are addicted to substances do not perceive the need for treatment.

Objective: Drug and alcohol use among adolescents is a common presentation in hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) and presents in different forms including in association with intoxication, withdrawal states, or trauma associated with drug-related events. For many adolescents with substance use, the Emergency Department (ED) is the first point of contact with medical personnel and thus also serves as a potential entry point into treatment.

Methods: This article reviews the common ways drug and alcohol problems present in the ED, clinical assessment of the patient and family, screening, laboratory testing, brief interventions in the ED, and referral to treatment beyond the ED.

Conclusion: Guidelines on how to manage the shifting terrain of adolescent substance use presenting in EDs across the nation continue to evolve. We highlight that considerable further research is needed to inform effective ED protocols to address this important individual and public health safety concern. Systems of care models which include collaborative teams of diverse stake holders are needed to effectively manage adolescents with substance use disorders.

Keywords: Adolescent, alcohol, drug, substance use, emergency department, screening.

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Article Details

Year: 2019
Page: [142 - 158]
Pages: 17
DOI: 10.2174/2210676608666181015114220

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