Substance Abuse

Colleen Copelan, MD

Board Certified Psychiatrist, specializing in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry located in Camarillo, CA

Substance abuse is a common problem with young Americans — 4% of 12-17-year-olds and 14.8% of 18-25-year-olds have substance abuse disorders. Colleen Copelan, MD, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, helps children, adolescents, and young adults recover from substance abuse at her practice in Camarillo, California. If your child has a substance abuse disorder, call Dr. Copelan to make an appointment today.

Substance Abuse Q & A

What is a substance abuse disorder?

Substance abuse disorder is a brain disease that causes compulsive use and abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other illicit substances. People with substance abuse disorders continue to use drugs or alcohol, despite increasingly negative consequences. 

Substance abuse causes changes in the parts of the brain that regulate impulsiveness, decision-making, judgment, learning, and memory. It causes harmful changes to brain function that outlast the feelings of intoxication. 

What causes substance abuse in young people?

Teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol for many reasons, including peer pressure, stress, or curiosity. They don’t try illicit substances intending to become addicted. 

Medical researchers haven’t identified why some people develop addictions while others don’t. However, some of the common risk factors are other mental health conditions, a family history of substance abuse, and trauma. 

What are the signs of substance abuse in a child?

Some of the signs of a substance abuse disorder in a young person include:

  • Declining grades
  • Lost interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased personal hygiene and personal appearance
  • Secretive behavior
  • Missing curfew or sneaking out
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Unusual tiredness


You might also witness your child while intoxicated. They might act defensively or belligerently. Your child might even steal money or engage in reckless or self-destructive behavior.

When should I talk to a doctor about my child’s substance abuse?

If you suspect your child is abusing drugs or alcohol, you should address the issue right away. Early drug and alcohol use increases their risk of addiction that persists into adulthood. 

Drugs and alcohol also have a detrimental effect on physical, mental, and emotional development. It can interfere with their academic success and lower their potential. 

How do you treat young people with substance abuse disorders?

Dr. Copelan begins with a thorough diagnostic evaluation. If your child has a substance abuse disorder, she provides referrals for specialized treatment centers for substance abuse and dependency. 

At the same time, Dr. Copelan can diagnose related mental health conditions. She might prescribe medication and therapy to supplement your child’s substance abuse treatment program. 

Call Colleen Copelan, MD, today to make an appointment if you think your child has a substance abuse disorder. 

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