Adolescent coming in into a doctor's clinic for a routine checkup often have her substance abuse problems overlooked by the doctor. Doctors just aren't able to understand how often adolescent drug abuse occurs, and are quite unable to spot a case reasonably quickly. That's the expert opinion in the matter. Actually, there are structured screening tools that pediatricians are supposed to use on their patients; they never do, and instead rely on gut instinct. And that usually leads them astray.

If you want to put a number on it, in a study, pediatricians were found to identify adolescent drug abuse only one out of ten times. And in cases where there was real dependence, they thought 100% of the time that the problem was limited to occasional abuse. What does this tell you? To begin with, you need to insist when you take your teenager in for a routine exam that he or she be screened properly with the structured screening tools (they are questionnaires) that they are supposed to use to identify adolescent drug abuse.

So what do these structures screening tool questionnaires actually look like? One of the most popular ones is the CRAFFT test. That's actually an acronym (in case you didn't guess already). The C stands for Car. They ask the adolescent to answer if they were ever in a car that was driven by someone who was high on drugs or alcohol. R stands for Relax - they ask the adolescent if they ever used alcohol or drugs to relax or to feel better about themselves or even as a social activity. A stands for Alone - does the adolescent ever used drugs or alcohol when by themselves? F stands for Forget - when they used drugs, do they forget about the things they did under the influence? F stands for Friends and Family - do they ever tell the adolescent that they have a problem with substance abuse? And finally, T stands for trouble - have they ever been in trouble for the things they did when they were under the influence?

Of course it's easy for a young person being questioned to completely lie about their drug abuse on their CRAFFT test. But researchers find that the test gets useful results, and that's certainly better than going on gut instinct as the doctors do now.