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Multiple adverse outcomes over thirty years of adolescent substance misuse

29 May 2009

A study by scientists led by Sheilagh Hodgins from the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London have demonstrated that adolescents involved in substance abuse have elevated risks in multiple domains for 30 years in adulthood

The study examined well-being in adulthood of individuals who as adolescents had consulted the only clinic for substance misuse problems in a large urban area in Sweden from 1968 to 1971. The clinic sample was matched on date and region of birth and sex to a randomly selected sample from the general Swedish population. Each sample included 1992 individuals. From age 21 to 50, the team collected information on substance misuse, admissions to hospital for illnesses related to substance misuse, admissions to hospital for mental health problems, convictions for crimes, and poverty.

Throughout the 30 year follow-up period, the men and women who had sought help for substance misuse problems in adolescence were more likely than those who had not come to the clinic to die, to continue abusing alcohol and/or illicit drugs, to be hospitalized for physical and mental health problems, to be convicted of criminal offences, and to be poor. Importantly, continued substance abuse in adulthood did not explain the increased risk of death, hospitalizations for physical and mental health problems, or poverty.

The results demonstrate that adolescents who seek help for substance misuse problems present elevated risks for problems in multiple domains through three decades of adulthood. These adolescents require comprehensive assessments to identify co-occurring physical health problems, as well as behavioural and mental health problems, and if such problems are present, effective and appropriate treatments for each.

The study was funded by a grant from the Stockholm country Council to the Research Centre for Adolescent Psychosocial Health

The full paper was published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.

Full copy of the paper:

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