Impact of co-occurring substance use on 6 month outcomes for young people seeking mental health treatment.Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2007 Nov; 41(11):896-902.AN
Co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders are highly prevalent among young people attending services, yet few studies have examined the effect of such comorbidity among those referred for treatment. The aim of the current study was to examine the impact of co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs) on 6 month outcomes for young people seeking mental health treatment.
One hundred and six young people (aged 15-24 years) with a non-psychotic DSM-IV Axis I disorder were assessed following referral to a specialist youth public mental health service. Participants were given a structured interview, as well as questionnaires assessing drug use, psychopathology, psychosocial functioning and self-esteem at baseline and 6 month follow up.
At baseline, 23 participants met criteria for a co-occurring SUD and 83 had a non-psychotic Axis I disorder. Both the non-SUD and the co-occurring SUD groups had high levels of psychopathology, serious impairments in functioning and moderate levels of suicidal ideation, although those with co-occurring SUD had significantly poorer levels of functioning. At 6 month follow up the co-occurring SUD group continued to experience substantial problems with symptoms and functioning whereas the non-SUD group had significant improvement in both of these domains.
The present findings are consistent with studies examining the impact of co-occurring substance use and mental health issues across different treatment settings, and reinforce recommendations that young people with co-occurring disorders require more intensive and integrated interventions. The present findings also highlight the need for routine assessment and management of substance use issues within youth mental health settings.