Cover: Demographic and Mental Health Characteristics of Individuals Who Present to Community Health Clinics With Substance Misuse

Demographic and Mental Health Characteristics of Individuals Who Present to Community Health Clinics With Substance Misuse

Published in: Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology, Volume 4 (January 2017). doi: 10.1177/2333392817734523

Posted on Nov 22, 2017

by Praise O. Iyiewuare, Colleen M. McCullough, Allison J. Ober, Kirsten Becker, Katherine E. Watkins


Community health clinics (CHCs) are an opportune setting to identify and treat substance misuse. This study assessed the characteristics of patients who presented to a CHC with substance misuse.


Personnel at a large CHC administered a 5-question screener to patients between June 3, 2014, and January 15, 2016, to assess past 3-month alcohol use, prescription opioid misuse, or illicit drug use. We stratified screen-positive patients into 4 diagnostic groups:(1) probable alcohol use disorder (AUD) and no comorbid opioid use disorder (OUD); (2) probable heroin use disorder; (3) probable prescription OUD, with or without comorbid AUD; and (4) no probable substance use disorder. We describe substance use and mental health characteristics of screen-positive patients and compare the characteristics of patients in the diagnostic groups.


Compared to the clinic population, screen-positive patients (N = 733) included more males (P < .0001) and had a higher prevalence of probable bipolar disorder (P < .0001) and schizophrenia (P < .0001). Eighty-seven percent of screen-positive patients had probable AUD or OUD; only 7% were currently receiving substance use treatment. The prescription opioid and heroin groups had higher rates of past bipolar disorder and consequences of mental health conditions than the alcohol only or no diagnosis groups (P < .0001).


Patients presenting to CHCs who screen positive for alcohol or opioid misuse have a high likelihood of having an AUD or OUD, with or without a comorbid serious mental illness. Community health clinics offering substance use treatment may be an important resource for addressing unmet need for substance use treatment and comorbid mental illness.

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