Prevalence and Characteristics of Clients with Co-Occurring Disorders in Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

Published in: The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, v. 30, no. 4, Dec. 2004, p. 749-764

by Katherine E. Watkins, Sarah B. Hunter, Suzanne L. Wenzel, Wenli Tu, Susan M. Paddock, Anne Reid Griffin, Patricia A. Ebener

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This article reports on the prevalence of probable mental health disorders among clients entering outpatient substance abuse treatment, their clinical characteristics, and past access to substance abuse and mental health care. Four hundred fifteen individuals (74% of those eligible) entering three publicly funded outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities in Los Angeles County were screened for a probable mental health disorder. Of the 210 with a positive screener (just over 50% of those screened), 195 (93%) were interviewed. Depression and anxiety were the most common disorders, and more than a third had two or more probable disorders. Close to 70% reported using alcohol, and almost half reported using crack or cocaine. Half had never received any mental health treatment, and for a third this was their first episode of addiction treatment; 22% were on psychotropic medications. Levels of physical and mental health functioning were lower than the 25th percentile of the U.S. population norms. Our results indicate high rates of co-occurring mental health disorders among individuals entering these outpatient substance abuse treatment clinics in Los Angeles. Identifying people with probable mental health disorders as they enter treatment has the potential to increase access to care among those with limited prior access.

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