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Substance Abuse: A Resource Guide For Young Adults

Addiction is a difficult disease to live with, no matter how old you are. As a teen, it may be especially hard. Numerous resources are available to help teens overcome addiction. Addiction is a complicated disease with few easy fixes or simple answers. It is important for teens to educate themselves and ask for help when they need it. Below are some resources you can use to help navigate this topic.

Nonfiction Books for Young Adults


Living with Substance Addiction by Melissa Higgins
Living with Substance Addiction features fictional narratives paired with firsthand advice from a medical expert to help preteens and teenagers feel prepared for dealing with substance addiction during adolescence. Topics include complications of substance addiction, getting help and detox, rehab, and aftercare, triggers, and relapse. Throughout the book, Ask Yourself This questions encourage discussion. Features include a selected bibliography, further readings, Just the Facts summary of medical facts about addiction, Where to Turn summary of key advice that includes contact information for helpful organizations, a glossary, source notes, and an index.

Drug Abuse by Katie Marsico
Recent studies show that the drug of choice among America's youth is marijuana. After marijuana, teens choose prescription and over-the-counter medications. The likelihood of being exposed to drugs at a young age is high, and the chance of drug experimentation is very real. In Drug Abuse, explore the scope of this serious issue through true stories as told by teenagers who have battled real-life drug problems. Learn about the warning signs, treatment options, and the most effective solutions to this troubling topic.

True Confessions by John Diconsiglio
When life throws a curveball at teens and tweens, point them in the direction of Scholastic Choices—the hip guide to life that tackles the tough challenges kids face every day with cool quizzes, real-life stories, and practical advice about what hurts and what helps.

Underage Drinking by Lauri S. Friedman (Editor); Lauri S. Scherer (Editor)
Essays explore the use and abuse of alcohol by teenagers, discussing the prevalence of binge drinking, the legal issue of the drinking age, and the effectiveness of various preventative measures.

On the Rocks by David Aretha
A comprehensive examination of the risks and physical and emotional effects of alcoholism, especially among today's youth.

Addiction by Wyatt S. Schaefer
A series of essays written either by people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or by those close to them discuss what it means to be addicted and the emotional toll of addiction.

Alcohol Information for Teens by Joyce Brennfleck Shannon
Written for teen readers, this volume comprises documents (some are excerpted) published by U.S. government agencies arranged in a user-friendly format that includes lots of inset boxes containing tips, encouraging axioms, vocabulary, and other useful information.

Alcoholism by Justin Karr
Presents a series of narrative essays from a variety of viewpoints, discussing the personal experiences of alcoholics and friends and family members of alcoholics.


Clean by Chris Beckman
A former cast member of MTV's Real World: Chicago, Chris Beckman recounts his journey from addiction to recovery, speaking directly to the concerns of today's youth: how to go out, have fun, and be productive while in recovery, and how to turn away from social pressure to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Clean: A New Generation in Recovery Speaks Out also gives parents a realistic look at what's really going on in schools and at the mall—anywhere kids get together.

Big Book Unplugged by John Rosengren; David Spohn
A big part of figuring out how to stay clean and sober is learning how other people manage to do it. That's exactly why the Big Book, "Alcoholics Anonymous", was written way back in 1939. A small group of alcoholics thought that maybe they could help each other—and help other alcoholics—by sharing their own stories about the disease and how they overcame it. It turns our that a lot of the stuff they wrote about back then holds true for alcoholics and addicts today.

Memoirs for Young Adults



Smashed by Koren Zailckas
With one stiff sip of Southern Comfort at the age of fourteen, Zailckas is initiated into the world of drinking. From then on, she will drink faithfully, fanatically. In high school, her experimentation will lead to a stomach pumping. In college, her excess will give way to a pattern of self-poisoning that will grow more destructive each year. At age twenty-two, Zailckas will wake up in an unfamiliar apartment in New York City, elbow her friend who is passed out next to her, and ask, "Where are we?" Smashed is a sober look at how she got there and, after years of blackouts and smashups, what it took for her to realize she had to stop drinking. Smashed is an astonishing literary debut destined to become a classic.

Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin; Chloe Sevigny
Lesley Arfin kept a diary during the apocalypse that was her adolescence, chronicling her depression from being bullied in the 10th grade and her discovery of heroin. Lesley told her diary everything. Now in her 20s, Lesley has returned to her journal and added new comments that only an adult looking back on their own life can perceive. Most of these are in the vein of 'What the hell was I talking about?' Lesley's hilarious updates remind readers how heavy it all seemed back then and how irrelevant it all really is in the face of adulthood.

The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Jim Carroll's bestselling memoir The Basketball Diaries was first released in 1978 and adapted as a film in 1995. Carroll's work includes several collections of poetry as well as a a second memoir, Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973. As the leader of The Jim Carroll Band he released three albums as well as several spoken word recordings. He died in New York City on September 11, 2009.


Tweak by Nic Sheff
Nic Sheff was drunk for the first time at age eleven. In the years that followed, he would regularly smoke pot, do cocaine and Ecstasy, and develop addictions to crystal meth and heroin. Even so, he felt like he would always be able to quit and put his life together whenever he needed to. It took a violent relapse one summer in California to convince him otherwise. In a voice that is raw and honest, Nic spares no detail in telling us the compelling, heartbreaking, and true story of his relapse and the road to recovery. As we watch Nic plunge the mental and physical depths of drug addiction, he paints a picture for us of a person at odds with his past, with his family, with his substances, and with himself. It's a harrowing portrait -- but not one without hope.

Leaving Dirty Jersey by James Salant
Written with heartbreaking insight and wicked humor, Leaving Dirty Jersey chronicles Salant's descent from wealth and privilege into a year of crystal meth addiction and crime.

A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
This book is unlike any memoir you'll ever read. Moving in its frankness, it is a relentless tale of a resilient spirit who took on the worst of contemporary urban life and survived it with a furious wit and unyielding determination. Cupcake Brown is a dynamic and original storyteller who will guide you on the most satisfying, startlingly funny, and genuinely affecting tour through hell you'll ever take.


Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum
From her first frightening night at a shelter, trying to sleep in a large room filled with yelling girls, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed—but it was still better than home. She was halfway homeless, one step away from being sent "upstate to Lockdown." Yet she continued to attend high school, harbor crushes, even play the lead in the spring production of Guys and Dolls. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards. This is an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves.

Zoo Station by Christiane F.; Christina Cartwright
In 1978 Christiane F. testified against a man who had traded heroin for sex with teenage girls at Berlin's notorious Zoo Station. In the course of that trial, Christiane F. became connected with two journalists who helped to turn her story, which begins with a dysfunctional but otherwise fairly normal childhood, into an acclaimed bestseller.

Nonfiction eBooks for Young Adults

Substance Abuse by Sheri Mabry Bestor
This book looks at the most common forms of substance abuse among teens. It also describes ways abuse can be recognized, and most importantly, how teens can get help for themselves and/or their peers.

Alcohol by Anne Rooney
This title gives the straight facts about alcohol, addresses teenagers' concerns, and offers help for anyone affected by an alcohol problem.

The Truth About Prescription Drugs by Basia Leonard
Describes prescription drug abuse, including the different types of prescription drugs and how they may be abused, why some people abuse these drugs, and how to stay safe.

Drugs by Ann Kramer
This title gives the straight facts about all sorts of drugs, from illegal street drugs to solvents and prescription drugs. It offers advice on the effects of each drug and help and support to anyone affected by a drug problem.

The Truth About Methamphetamine and Crystal Meth by Lara Nost
Describes methamphetamine and crystal meth, including its origins, the dangerous effects of the drug, and how it is produced, and discusses how to seek help for methamphetamine addiction.

The Truth About Ecstasy by Lanie Kimlan
Describes the effects of ecstasy, explains why it is a dangerous drug and how it can lead to addiction, and discusses how to seek addiction help.

The Truth About Amphetamines and Stimulants by Nicolette P. Conti
Discusses amphetamine and stimulant drug abuse, including the drugs' effects on the body and brain, how people become addicted, and how to seek help with drug addiction.

Fiction Books for Young Adults

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp
In the last months of high school, charismatic eighteen-year-old Sutter Keely lives in the present, staying drunk or high most of the time, but that could change when he starts working to boost the self-confidence of a classmate, Aimee.

Recovery Road by Blake Nelson
While she is in a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol abuse, seventeen-year-old Maddie meets Stewart, who is also in treatment, and they begin a relationship, which they try to maintain after they both get out.

Clean by Amy Reed
A group of teens in a Seattle-area rehabilitation center form an unlikely friendship as they begin to focus less on their own problems with drugs and alcohol by reaching out to help a new member, who seems to have even deeper issues to resolve.

Far from You by Tess Sharpe
After Sophie Winters survives a brutal attack in which her best friend, Mina, is murdered, she sets out to find the killer. At the same time she must prove she is free of her past Oxy addiction and in no way to blame for Mina's death.

Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Eighteen-year-old Zach does not remember how he came to be in a treatment center for alcoholics, but through therapy and caring friends, his amnesia fades and he learns to face his past while working toward a better future.

White Lines by Jennifer Banash
In 1980s New York City, seventeen-year-old Caitlin tries to overcome her mother's abuse and father's abandonment by losing herself in nights of clubbing and drugs, followed by days of stumbling aimlessly through school.

iPhone Apps

Teen Hotlines
Teen Hotlines list hotlines, help lines, and web sites organized by subject. From school violence and depression to eating disorders and suicide, these national organizations can also refer teens to state and local services in their community. It is brought to you by the award-winning Web site, Teen Health & Wellness.

Meeting Finder
Meeting Finder is the most comprehensive and easy to use 12 step program meeting search tool. Find meetings across the U.S. in seconds.

Anonymous Sober Recovery Chat for Alcoholics & Addicts in AA NA
Meet and chat with alcoholics, addicts and people in recovery. Stop drinking, using drugs or other self-destructive behaviors. Stay sober one day at a time and chat with people who relate and want to help.

AA Big Book and More
The text of "Alcoholics Anonymous" otherwise known as the "Big Book".

NA Meeting Search
NA Meeting Search is an application developed to help find an NA Meeting anywhere around the world. Also bundled with this app is the daily Just For Today meditations.

iPromises Recovery Companion
With the iPromises recovery companion you can create trigger alerts, share meetings and access shared meetings; geo-locate the meeting you are sitting in to add it to your meeting list; easily contact friends in recovery; keep a visual journal of your moods, challenges, and accomplishments; click an icon to call your sponsor; use the Travel section and the iPhone's GPS when you are out of town and easily click-to-call local AA offices near you (US, Canada, and a growing list of other countries). You can add friends, see shared meetings, track your progress and challenges, and get a daily positive message one day at time. iPromises is the ultimate free AA and 12-step recovery application that will add new features as users suggest them.

Recovery Speakers
This Recovery Speakers smartphone app is being made available to help people in recovery find quality speaker talks from the past, and the present. The Recovery Speakers audio library formerly “The Midwest Tape Library” is the largest known historic Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) & Al-Anon audio library ever assembled.

Addiction AVERT
Addiction AVERT is a substance abuse craving reduction technique that can help individuals challenge cravings in the immediacy by bringing up realistic events and situations that will happen if they choose to use drugs, alcohol or smoke and what they will lose. AVERT can be customized to help motivate an individual’s personal recovery program and works with a sponsor.

Where To Turn

If You Think You Might Be Addicted:

If you're confused about whether you have an addiction and would like more information, talk to your school counselor or another trusted adult. Check out addiction Web sites for teens such as Above the Influence, NIDA for Teens, and Teens Health. If you want to talk to someone right now, call the Girls & Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-448-3000.

If You're Having Thoughts of Suicide:

Feeling out of control with alcohol or drugs can create a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. If you're already depressed or lonely, using substances can make your anxiety or depression worse. If you've had thoughts of suicide, please get help right away from your doctor, school counselor, school nurse, teacher, relative, or other trusted adult. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), the USA National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or the Girls & Boys Town National Hotline (1-800-448-3000).

If You're Wondering Where to Find an Addiction Specialist or Treatment Program:

Your family doctor, school nurse, or school counselor may be able to recommend an addiction specialist, or you can check online for board-certified doctors with addiction experience at the American Society of Addiction Medicine or the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

For Teens In NYC

Project Renew is a program within the Health Department that provides substance abuse (alcohol and/or drugs) screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment services at many free and confidential STD clinics during regular clinic visit. Project Renew is supported by funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Teen addiction is different from adult addiction, so if you can, it's important to choose a rehab program designed for adolescents. To find teen rehab programs, check out Choose Help or Drug Strategies. To find community-based addiction services, you can contact the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment . And for free treatment centers, try Sober Recovery.


Higgins, M. (2012). Living with substance addiction. Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Pub.


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