Psychiatric illness and drug abuse common in jailed juveniles

November 10, 2003

A study by Northwestern University researchers shows that about half of teens in juvenile detention have two or more psychiatric disorders and substance abuse disorders.

The study, conducted by Karen M. Abram, Linda A. Teplin and co-researchers from the Psycho-Legal Studies Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, also found that the most common combination was substance abuse disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or behavioral disorders, which affected almost a third of 1,829 teens examined. Almost half also had anxiety disorders, affective disorders or both.

More than one of ten teens had a substance abuse disorder and a major mental disorder, such as psychosis, manic episode or major depressive episode. Among 305 teens with major mental disorders in the current study, more than half of girls and almost three fourths of boys also had a substance abuse disorder.

"Treating these youth is a real challenge," Abram said.

"Their disorders may get them into trouble. But detention centers were never designed to be mental hospitals," she said.

Results of the study, conducted at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, were published in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. The Cook County facility was selected because it is typical of other urban detention centers nationwide.

Mental health professionals speculated for years that because of failures in the mental health system, many adolescents with serious psychiatric disorders are arrested instead of treated. An earlier study by the Psycho-Legal Studies group found that even after excluding conduct disorder (symptoms of which include delinquent behaviors), approximately 60 percent of males and 70 percent of females in juvenile detention have at least one psychiatric disorder. Substance abuse was the most frequent disorder, affecting 50 percent of the sample. These rates of disorder far exceed those of teens in the community.

Abram estimated that, nationwide, there may be as many as 47,000 detained juveniles who have two or more types of psychiatric disorder; more than 12,000 have both a major mental disorder and a substance abuse disorder.

"Comorbidity of psychiatric disorders is the rule, not the exception," Abram said.

On an average day, more than 106,000 teens are in custody in U.S. juvenile facilities, and of these, over 60 percent are racial or ethnic minorities and from low-income families. Thus, psychiatric disorders in detained adolescents are a significant health disparities issue, Abram said.

The authors suggest that mental health professionals must collaborate with the juvenile justice system to: better screen detainees for psychiatric problems; divert youths with major mental disorders who are not community threats to treatment facilities on arrest; and reduce barriers to mental health services.
-end-
Abram is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Teplin is Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Psycholegal Studies Program. Their co-authors on the study were Gary M. McClelland, research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Mina K. Dulcan, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and head of child and adolescent psychiatry, Children's Memorial Hospital.

This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation and a consortium of other agencies.

Northwestern University

Related Substance Abuse Articles from Brightsurf:

College students with disabilities at greater risk for substance abuse
College students with physical and cognitive disabilities use illicit drugs more, and have a higher prevalence of drug use disorder, than their non-disabled peers, according to a Rutgers study.

An AI algorithm to help identify homeless youth at risk of substance abuse
While many programs and initiatives have been implemented to address the prevalence of substance abuse among homeless youth in the United States, they don't always include data-driven insights about environmental and psychological factors that could contribute to an individual's likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.

How Tweets may influence substance abuse in youth
In a new study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), researchers characterized the content of 23 million drug-related tweets by youths to identify their beliefs and behaviors related to drug use and better understand the potential mechanisms driving substance use behavior.

Time in host country -- a risk factor for substance abuse in migrants
Refugees and other migrants who move to Sweden are initially less likely to be diagnosed with alcohol or drug addiction than the native population but over time their rates of substance abuse begin to mirror that of the Swedish born population.

Children of incarcerated parents have more substance abuse, anxiety
Children of incarcerated parents are six times more likely to develop a substance use disorder in adulthood and nearly twice as likely to have diagnosable anxiety compared to children whose parents were not incarcerated, according to new research from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University.

Reducing care needs of teens with substance-abuse disorders
Screenings, interventions, and referrals can help adolescent teens overcome substance abuse in the short-term.

Pain and substance abuse interact in a vicious cycle
Pain and substance use interact in a vicious cycle that can ultimately worsen and maintain both chronic pain and addiction, according to a research team including faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Gap in substance abuse data could have long-term implications, study finds
A policy of redacting Medicare claims that included diagnosis or procedure codes related to substance abuse was in effect from 2013-2017, just as the Affordable Care Act and the opioid epidemic were drastically changing the healthcare landscape.

AI tool promotes positive peer groups to tackle substance abuse
When it comes to fighting substance abuse, research suggests the company you keep can make the difference between recovery and relapse.

Investigators highlight potential of exercise in addressing substance abuse in teens
Exercise has numerous, well-documented health benefits. Could it also play a role in preventing and reducing substance misuse and abuse in adolescents?

Read More: Substance Abuse News and Substance Abuse Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.