Study finds greater severity in substance abuse in adolescent females
June 24, 2004

A study of male and female adolescents in treatment for substance abuse found significantly greater severity in drug use and associated mental health-related factors among the girls.

"Many adolescents entering substance abuse treatment have coexisting mental health problems and are criminally involved. Examination of the complexities of substance use, mental health, and criminal justice involvement along with changes in these issues following treatment is needed," stated researchers at the University of Arizona's SW Institute for Research on Women.

Their study cohort was "941 males and 266 females enrolled in seven drug-treatment programs located in geographically diverse areas of the United States. Comparisons between males and females at treatment entry and 3, 6, 12, and 30 months later were examined with regard to substance use, mental health, and criminal justice involvement."

S.J. Stevens and colleagues found "that females showed significantly greater severity in substance use, problems associated with use, and mental health-related variables at intake, while males had significantly more days on probation/parole.

"With respect to change over time, the rate of change in mental health and days on probation/parole differed between the sexes," the researchers said.

"Results indicate that while rate of change is different for males and females on most variables, there was positive change following treatment for both groups with regard to substance use, mental health, and probation/parole status. The high severity levels of females at intake calls for gender-specific outreach and identification along with gender-specific treatments," concluded Stevens and colleagues.

Their study appeared in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs (Gender differences in substance use, mental health, and criminal justice involvement of adolescents at treatment entry and at three, six, twelve and thirty month follow-up. J Psychoactive Drug, 2004;36(1):13-25).

For additional information, contact S.J. Stevens, University of Arizona, SW Institute Research Women, Service Research Office, 3912 S 6th Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85714 USA.

Publisher contact information for the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs is: Haight-Ashbury Publ, 409 Clayton St., San Francisco, CA 94117 USA.