194733 Predictors of addiction to alcohol and drugs among street youth in three U.S. cities

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 12:30 PM

Sanna Thompson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Jina Jun, MSW , School of Social Work, University of Texas, Austin, TX
David Pollio, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Kristin Ferguson, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Kimberly Bender, PhD , School of Social Work, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Purpose: Previous research documents disproportionate rates of substance abuse among homeless youth and demonstrates significant population differences based on the region in which services are received. This study identified predictors of street youths' addiction in three U.S. cities on: 1) institutional disaffiliation, 2) human capital, 3) psychological dysfunction and 4) homeless culture.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of 146 homeless youth (ages 18-24) from Los Angeles (n=50), Austin (n=50) and St. Louis (n=46) were recruited from shelters, drop-in centers and street locations using convenience sampling. Using a retrospective event-history instrument and standardized measures, youth were interviewed concerning institutional disaffiliation (school status, criminal histories, lack of family connection), human capital (locating resources/money, social support), psychological dysfunction (depression, PTSD), and homeless culture (transience, substances used). Logistic regression models predicted youths' addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Results: Findings demonstrated that variables measuring psychological dysfunction predicted alcohol addiction, while institutional disaffiliation and homeless culture predicted drug addiction. Specifically, the greater the number of substances used and having PTSD symptoms increased the likelihood of alcohol addiction (model chi-square=47.1 [df=17], p<.001). However, greater numbers of substances used, being arrested for vandalism and status offenses but not arrested for alcohol-related activities increased the likelihood of drug addiction (model chi-square=55.4 [df=17], p<.001).

Implications: Findings affirm distinct patterns of addiction for alcohol compared to drugs. Understanding these features and the heterogeneity of this population has strong potential for providing national mental health responses as well as information unique to substance use treatment for this underserved population.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe rates of substance abuse among homeless street youth 2. Discuss differences in four domains of conceptual model in relation to alcohol and drug addiction

Keywords: Substance Abuse, Chemical Dependence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I collected data, helped with analysis and participated in write up of results.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.