Social Science Disciplines
Issues Affecting the Population
Adolescents are a vulnerable segment of the
population who experience challenges when
growing up. Research conducted shows that
there is a strong correlation between the
occurrence of mental disorders and substance
use disorders in the adolescent population that
needs to be addressed from the perspectives of
different social sciences.
Substance abuse disorder is recognized as a
significant health problem among adolescents
worldwide. Godley and colleagues (2014)
placed a strong correlation between SUDs
and co- occurring mental disorders, which is
important in their etiology and prognosis. The
abuse of substances is associated with
numerous mental disorder such as anxiety,
depression and ADHD, among others. These
disorders account for up to 75% of all mental
conditions in the adolescent demographic
group (Zhou, Qin, Del Giovane, Pan, Gentile,
Liu & Xie, 2015).
Research indicates that 20- 30% of the
adolescents who are depressed also have a
history of substance abuse and some have
attempted suicide (McManama, Kimberly,&
In cases where mental disorders existed, the
addition of substance abuse only worsens the
condition. Substance abuse may also trigger
mental illness in adolescents, or increase their
vulnerability of developing a mental illness
later in life (Bayles & Villalobos, 2015).
Social sciences such as psychology, sociology
and political science will view and address the
issue in a variety of ways. It is important that
all these perspectives are explored so that
appropriate solution and interventions can be
put in place.
The treatment of SUDs and mental illnesses is faced
with a lot of barriers as outlined by Bayles and Villalobos
• Adolescents may be reluctant to seek treatment
• They may downplay the severity of their condition
• Cost of treatment is prohibitive
• Reluctance to place children in treatment
• Fragmentation and the unavailability of mental health
services in the country, especially in the rural
setting(Korsgaard, Torgensen, Wentzel-Larsen &
• Sociocultural factors will also play a role, with African-
Americans less likely to receive the needed
services(Whitesell, Blanchard, Peel & Brown, 2011).
• Most of the youth found in the juvenile system have a
history of SUDs, mental issues or both. Welch-
Brewer et al. (2011) reported that as many as 70% of
the youth in the justice system suffer from mental
disorders. Despite this, the system is not equipped to
assess and provide the necessary treatment, posing
a great challenge in recidivism rates (Kretschmar et.
• There is also limited research on the outcomes of
different segments from the juvenile system. Welch-
Brewer et al. (2011) show that the prevalence of
mental problems varies among the races and
between the genders with whites and females having
a higher prevalence.
• Based on this data, there is need for interventions to
be tailored to fit a particular segment for them to be
effective, rather than one treatment “fits” all.
• There is a lack of adequate research on SUDs among
adolescents. Most of the work done in this area has
targeted the adults and there is a deficit of information
on how such cases among the youth should be
handled (Zhou et. al., 2014).
• The literature available has not fully examined the
developmental phases of adolescence and the
challenges that may be experienced when
administering the interventions (Smith, 2013). This
leaves mental health professionals ill equipped to
serve this population.
• Additionally, the approach used on adults with mental
health disorders will not be effective when handling
teenagers. Smith (2013) states that awareness of this
limitation should be raised among the staff.
• Conflicting policy also affects service delivery and
there is need for more research and education to
improve mental health professionals’ work.
The MHPAEA Act of 2008 targets people experiencing
mental illnesses and SUDs. There is emphasis on parity
in the health care system for patients with mental
disorders, including the availability of medical insurance
to this population.
• Transparency and equality in treatment regardless of
the social class and geographic location of the
• As suggested by Godley and colleagues in 2004, a
collaborative mode of treatment such as the ACRA
should be put in place to target adolescents. When this
is adopted, professionals will be in a position to solve
most of the problems that affect this segment.
• Outreach work such as detailed assessment, multi
systemic therapy and mentoring will be required to
support the service. Policy measures should also be
put in place to address the problem from its roots, and
to help the youth keep off drugs and substances.
• Employ more professionals with an expertise in this
area to administer the appropriate treatment for
adolescents and encourage their rehabilitation.
SUD is a complex problem that requires collaboration
between clinicians, service providers and the society
(Bayles & Villalobos, 2015).
• Instituting rehabilitative measures
• Encouragement of the integration of delinquents back into
• Engagement in sensitization to discourage drug use.
• Support of the families of adolescents with substance
• Identification of youth either at risk for SUDs or those
• Restriction of substance abuse among teenagers by
enforcing laws, such as those that prohibit the sale of
alcohol to minors.
• Equal provision of health services to all members of the
community, regardless of their social class.
Bayles, C., & Villalobos, T. (2015). Using mindfulness with
treatment of dual diagnosis in adolescents. The International
Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 9(4), 23-26.
Godley, S., Smith, J., Passetti, L., & Subramaniam, G. (2014).
The Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA)
as a Model Paradigm for the Management of Adolescents With
Substance Use Disorders and Co-Occurring Psychiatric
Disorders. Substance Abuse, 35(4), 352-363.
Korsgaard, H. O., Torgersen, S., Wentzel-Larsen, T., &
Ulberg, R. (2016). Substance abuse and personality
disorder comorbidity in adolescent outpatients: are
girls more severely ill than boys? Child and adolescent
psychiatry and mental health, 10(1), 1-9
Kretschmar, J. M., Butcher, F., Kanary, P. J., & Devens, R.
(2015). Responding to the mental health and substance abuse
needs of youth in the juvenile justice system: Ohio’s Behavioral
Health/Juvenile Justice Initiative. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry, 85(6), 515.
McManama, O. B., Kimberly, H., & Berzin, S. C. (2012).
Examining the impact of psychiatric diagnosis and comorbidity
on the medical lethality of adolescent suicide attempts. Suicide
and Life-Threatening Behavior, 42(4), 437-444.
Smith, M. (2013). Care of adolescents who have mental health
and substance misuse problems. Mental Health Practice, 16(5),
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(SAMHSA,2016). Implementation of the mental health parity
and addiction equity Act (MHPAEA). Retrieved from
Welch-Brewer, C. L., Stoddard-Dare, P., & Mallett, C. A. (2011).
Race, substance abuse, and mental health disorders as
predictors of Juvenile court outcomes: do they vary by gender?
Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 28(3), 229-241.
Whitesell, M., Bachand, A., Peel, J. & Brown, M. (2013).
Familial, social, and individual factors contributing to risk for
adolescent substance use. J Addict., 2013, 579310.
Zhou, X., Qin, B., Del Giovane, C., Pan, J., Gentile, S., Liu, Y.,
… & Xie, P. (2015). Efficacy and tolerability of antidepressants in
the treatment of adolescents and young adults with depression
and substance use disorders: a systematic review and
meta‐analysis. Addiction, 110(1), 38-48.