Mental Health and Medical Problems and Service Use Among Adolescent Substance Users

Published in: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, v. 42, no. 6, June 2003, p. 701-709

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2002

by Lisa H. Jaycox, Andrew R. Morral, Jaana Juvonen

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OBJECTIVE: Adolescents entering the substance abuse treatment system frequently exhibit mental health and medical problems. Because little is known about whether these youths receive services to address these problems, this study examined the services received by youths admitted to substance abuse treatment. METHOD: Admission and 3-month follow-up reports of mental health, medical problems, and service use were examined within a large cohort (N = 1,088) of 12-19-year-olds admitted to seven inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs across the United States between 1998 and 2001. RESULTS: High levels of mental health problems were found at both time points, but few received mental health treatment. In contrast, there were lower rates of medical problems, and more than half received services. Logistic regression predicting mental health treatment receipt found females in residential settings with more current and baseline distress to be more likely to receive services. Ethnicity, baseline behavioral problems, and whether or not currently in substance abuse treatment did not predict service use. A logistic regression predicting medical services showed that females in residential treatment were also more likely to receive medical treatment. CONCLUSION: Although these results require replication and validation, they suggest that more could be done to take advantage of the opportunity to link youths entering substance use treatment with mental health services.

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