Adolescent substance abuse is a serious problem within the United States today, with 9.7 percent of youth between the ages of 12 and 17 admitting to illicit drug usage within thirty days of their interview date in 2000 (CRC Health Group, 2013). The question becomes not whether or not there is an issue with adolescent substance abuse, but who is better equipped to deal with the situation, nurse practitioners or those who are only registered nurses.

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Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have gone through advanced levels of higher education training in order to be able to provide additional health services, including the diagnostic and management of both common and complex medial conditions to individuals of all ages; they are also referred to as advanced practice nurses or mid-level practitioners (Buppert, p. 1). These advanced practice nurses are able to step in to fill the gap that is presented by the shortage of available physicians, taking full advantage of their educational preparations and their knowledge of situations up to and including adolescent substance abuse (Newhouse, et al., p. 81); in addition, in many cases these nurse practitioners have the availability of prescribing certain drugs within the clinical setting that may serve to assist with adolescent substance abuse and the associated withdrawals.

Nurses have a key role in therapeutic interventions, and nursing expertise is imperative in family nursing practice, allowing the family to find comfort from an individual who is more accessible than a doctor in terms of familiarity and comfort level (Thirsk & Moules, p. 74). This level of comfort and familiarity extends to nurse practitioners who have greater levels of experience and higher education, thereby working to make them more knowledgeable from a text based standard, which serves to provide increased comfort to the family who is seeking treatment for adolescent substance abuse.

The nurse practitioner has all of the characteristics that a family desires in the nurse, but the increased benefit of additional schooling, thereby making them more ideally suited to act as a case manager in that situation than a registered nurse would be, as a result of the increased knowledge of therapy and intervention techniques that could be applied to the situation of adolescent substance abuse and the ability in some states in certain clinical settings to prescribe certain classes of drugs that would assist with withdrawal symptoms in adolescents.

  • Buppert, C. (2011). Nurse practitioner’s business practice and legal guide . (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • CRC Health Group. (2013). National drug statistics summary. Retrieved from
  • Newhouse, R. P., Weiner, J. P., Stanik-Hutt, J., White, K. M., Johantgen, M., Steinwachs, D., & … Bass, E. B. (2012). Policy Implications for Optimizing Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Use Nationally. Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, 13(2), 81-89. doi:10.1177/1527154412456299
  • Thirsk, L. M., & Moules, N. J. (2013). “I Can Just Be Me”: Advanced Practice Nursing With Families Experiencing Grief. Journal Of Family Nursing, 19(1), 74-98. doi:10.1177/1074840712471445