Substance Abuse: Adolescent Group Activities

Updated July 20, 2017

Substance abuse in adolescence is a serious health issue that may lead to devastating consequences such as addiction or overdose. Early intervention with the support and guidance of therapy and treatment programs is needed to overcome addiction. An effective tool used in therapy is group work, which involves the support and understanding of other teens in the same situation. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States, drug use among teens has decreased since 2001 due to therapy, education, and prevention programs.

Art Therapy

One therapeutic group work activity is art therapy. Health specialists use art as a means of expression for adolescents struggling with substance abuse. They incorporate drawing, painting, collage making, and sculpting with clay as a way for group members to express their emotions, alleviate tension and stress, and to become more aware of not only their own desires but the desires and needs of other people.

Art therapy is also a teaching tool for therapists to understand their patients' own individual needs. Often, artistic therapy involves group projects such as painting a mural so that everyone's participation in the group is required for the completion of the project.

Behavioural Therapy

Substance abuse therapists also integrate behavioural strategies as an effective treatment for substance abuse. They encourage the group to share personal stories, which involves active listening and building trust. Group members also learn how to cope with stress and how to reverse negative behaviours into positive ones they can be proud of. Therapists incorporate self-esteem building by the use of positive affirmations, which are encouraging statements given to one another by the supportive members of the group. Difficult emotions are challenging to handle for many people, but with the proper skills adolescents learn to make positive decisions.

Sports Activities and Group Outings

Substance abuse therapists use group outings and sports activities as part of the treatment program. This teamwork encourages building strong relationships and working together, and it reduces isolation, disappointment and shame that many young people feel when struggling with substance abuse. Group members provide support to their peers and learn the valuable advantage of team effort. They also get the opportunity to participate in healthy physical activity in a safe environment under the direct supervision of trained leaders.


Education is a critical component for group activities. There are several factors that may contribute to an adolescent's decision to abuse substances. Some factors include depression, peer pressure, trauma at home or school, and mental health illnesses. Children and teens need to be educated on the consequences of using drugs and alcohol and how these substances affect all aspects of the body and its functions. They also need to be taught the skills and techniques needed to make healthy choices for the future.

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About the Author

Ginger Micah Green has been writing since 1984. In 1985 Green's article and illustrations regarding bus safety was published in the "Whitehorse Star" newspaper. She also contributed poetry and helped edit her school yearbook. Green is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts from the University of the Fraser Valley.