Cover: Narrative Review

Narrative Review

Revised Principles and Practice Recommendations for Adolescent Substance Use Treatment and Policy

Published in: Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2024.03.010

Posted on May 6, 2024

by Justine W. Welsh, Alex R. Dopp, Rebecca M. Durham, Siara I. Sitar, Lora L. Passetti, Sarah B. Hunter, Mark D. Godley, Ken C. Winters


In 2014, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse released the "Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment," summarizing previously established evidence and outlining principles of effective assessment, treatment, and aftercare for substance use disorders (SUD). Winters et al. (2018) updated these principles to be developmentally appropriate for adolescents. This review builds on that formative work and recommends updated adolescent assessment, treatment, and aftercare principles and practices.


The Cochrane, MEDLINE-PubMed, and PsychInfo databases were searched for relevant studies with new data about adolescent substance use services. This article updates the 13 original principles; condenses the 8 original modalities into 5 practices; and highlights implications for public policy approaches, future funding, and research.


Key recommendations from the principles include integrating care for co-occurring mental health disorders and SUDs, improving service accessibility including through the educational system, maintaining engagement, and addressing tension between agencies when collaborating with other youth service systems. Updates to the treatment practices include adoption of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), investment in social programs and family involvement in treatment, expanding access to behavioral therapies and medications, increasing funding to harm reduction services, supporting reimbursement for continuing care services, and increasing investment in research.


These revised principles of adolescent assessment, treatment, and aftercare approaches and practices aim to establish guidance and evidence-based practices for treatment providers, while encouraging necessary support from policymakers and funding agencies to improve the standard of care for adolescent SUD services.

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