Substance Use + Mental Health in Youth and Young Adults

By Rochelle U. Collins, ASW, MA
Associate Director of Outpatient & Prevention Services
Horizon Treatment Services

Rochelle Collins
Rochelle U. Collins, ASW, MA

Although most youth are in good health, some youths are at an increased risk for behaviors that can lead to poor health outcomes, such as high-risk substance use. The majority of adults who meet the criteria for having a substance use disorder started using substances during their teen and young adult years.Youth with substance use disorders also experience higher rates of physical and mental conditions, diminished overall health and well-being, and potential addiction.

Before the pandemic, mental health disorder challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, according to a Surgeon General’s Office. Rates for anxiety and depression grew 3 percentage points between 2003 and 2012 (USA Facts, 2023).  By 2019, one in five children ages 3-17 had a reported mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention (USA Facts, 2023). Mental health disorders are, “any serious change in the way children typically learn, behave or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day,” according to CDC.

Researchers cited in the Surgeon General point to the growing use of digital media, increasing academic pressure, and limited access to mental health care. Other stressors mentioned as causes for worsening mental health among young people include rising income inequality for care givers, substance use, racism and homophobia, and gun violence.

Project Eden’s staff have seen an increase in the number of youth and young adults who are struggling with substance use along with mental health conditions which are impacting their quality of life. 50% of youth and young adults in Project Eden’s Outpatient Treatment and School-Based Prevention programs report to have experience mental health challenges, and use substances as means to cope with stressor e.g., peer pressure, family problems, school challenges, gender identity issues, etc.

Project Eden’s goals are to reduce youth and young adult involvement with substance use; educate youth and young adults about the intersectionality’s of substance use and mental health; and provide youth and young adults with positive alternatives to substance use through mental health recovery. Positive alternatives include sports, poetry, arts & music, and pro-social activities that Project Eden has youth engage in Through direct interventions and meeting the clients where they are at, Project Eden hopes to gear youth and young adults towards preventing more severe and prolonged substance use as young adults through our Prevention programs, and long-term substance use and mental health recovery for those needing outpatient treatment.


USA Facts. Retrieved from

Drug Free.Org.  Retrieved from Substance-Use-Mental-Health-in-Teens-and-Young-Adults.pdf (