Leading Physicians Call Adolescent Substance Abuse
A “Major National Public Health Problem,”
Recommend Systemic Changes

The Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP)--a bipartisan group of leading physicians from across the country—today released a comprehensive report on adolescent substance abuse and urged lawmakers and public health officials to revisit strategies for curbing and treating teen drug abuse. 

The report “Adolescent Substance Abuse: A Public Health Priority,” contains recommendations for policy changes aimed at the prevention, screening, assessment, and treatment of adolescents prone to or affected by abuse:

·        lawmakers are urged to increase federal and state funding for prevention and treatment efforts and to expand education efforts geared to adolescents to include current data on risk and protective measures;

·        healthcare professionals are called upon to increase training for screening, diagnosis, referral and treatment, as well as to expand support for research to develop and test intervention models; 

·        the justice system is urged to expand treatment and services for adolescents in correctional facilities, provide transitional and aftercare services as youth re-enter the community, increase collaboration and communication with the medicine, legal, and education communities, and increase research into the effectiveness of criminal justice procedures in reducing drug abuse and crime.

The report details the prevalence and causes of adolescent substance abuse, and the particular challenges posed when abuse and addiction take hold in young people.  “Substance abuse among teens is a national problem in need of national attention,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services and a member of PLNDP.  “The bad news is that substance abuse is starting at younger ages, taking hold earlier, and leading many teens to end up in jail.  The good news is that a growing body of evidence suggests that prevention and treatment work, and are more efficient and cost-effective than incarceration alone.”

The 70+ page report highlights the link between adolescent substance use problems and mental health disorders, and explores the role that America’s juvenile justice system can play in holding youth accountable for delinquent behavior while at the same time linking them to treatments and resources that effectively treat addiction and prevent future problems. “Adolescents are a special population with a unique set of challenges and needs,” said June E. Osborn, M.D., Chair of PLNDP. “This report points out that it is in all of our interests to see that these needs are met.”    

The 37-founding members of PLNDP include many former high-ranking health or drug policy advisors under the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations. In addition to Drs. Sullivan and Osborn, PLNDP members include David Kessler, M.D., immediate past Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Edward Brandt, M.D. and Philip Lee, M.D., who were Assistant Secretaries of Health and Human Services under Presidents Reagan and Clinton, respectively; Antonia Novello, M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General under the Bush Administration and current Health Commissioner of New York; Frederick Robbins, M.D., Nobel Laureate; the current and former editors of

the Journal of the American Medical Association and the former editor of Science; and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. Funding for the PLNDP project comes principally from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The organization’s consensus statement on drug abuse and addiction has been endorsed by many medical professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics, AmericanAcademy of Family Physicians, AmericanCollege of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Society of Addiction Medicine, and Society of General Internal Medicine.

For more information about PLNDP or the report, please visit PLNDP’s web site at http://www.plndp.org or contact Christine Heenan at (401) 831-5898.