Substance use and risk-taking among adolescents

Sarah W. Feldstein, William R. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Background: Among adolescents, substance abuse often occurs in conjunction with risk-taking behaviors. Aims: This review explores the nature and etiology of concomitant risk-taking behaviors, addressing behavioral, genetic, temperamental, and family factors that accompany adolescent substance use. Method: A literature review was conducted to determine the breadth of factors that contribute to adolescent substance abuse and correlated risk-taking behaviors, and to identify relevant evidence-based treatments. Results: The literature review revealed that among adolescents, substance abuse occurs as part of a cluster of problems and risk-taking behaviors. Predisposing factors include temperament, genetics, neurobehavioral disinhibition, social competencies, parenting, abuse/neglect, and peer behaviors. Various interventions, including individual therapies, parent training, and family therapies comprise the empirically-supported treatments for these co-occurring behaviors. Conclusions: The literature indicates that adolescents being seen for substance-related problems should be evaluated for engagement in other risk-taking behaviors, and school, peer, and social functioning. In addition, the data support that family, versus individual, interventions should be the norm for substance-abusing adolescents. Declaration of interest: The authors neither received financial support, nor are involved in financial relationships that pose a conflict of interest for this work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-643
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Intervention
  • Risk-taking
  • Substance abuse
  • Therapies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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