Online Program

Recent substance use & mental disorder symptoms among homeless youth

Monday, November 4, 2013

Harmony Rhoades, PhD, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Eric Rice, PhD, School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Hailey Winetrobe, MPH, CHES, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Substance use and mental disorder are prevalent among homeless youth. The complex set of vulnerabilities posed by life on the street and emerging adulthood may mean that substance use/mental disorder comorbidity in this population is associated with increased mental and physical health consequences. Methods: As part of a longitudinal study of homeless youth utilizing drop-in centers in Los Angeles, 652 youth (ages 14-25) completed a self-administered questionnaire. In addition to demographic and housing characteristics, youth reported on substance use and mental health. Multivariate models controlling for demographic characteristics (gender, education, age, race, and duration of homelessness) assessed associations between substance use (past 30 day use of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription drug misuse (PDM), cocaine, and heroin) and mental health (past year suicide attempt, 30-day symptoms of PTSD, and current significant depressive symptoms). Results: Respondents reported high rates of substance use: 74% used marijuana, 25% meth, 20% PDM, 15% cocaine, and 10% heroin. Past year suicide attempts were reported by 13% of youth, 30% had symptoms indicating PTSD, and 56% had significant depressive symptoms. Having a past year suicide attempt was associated with PDM (OR=2.62; CI: 1.36-5.03), cocaine (OR=2.02; CI: 1.21-4.00), and heroin (OR=6.73; CI 3.34-13.57). Significant depressive symptoms were associated with marijuana (OR=1.07; CI: 1.00-1.14). PTSD symptoms were associated with meth use (OR=2.39; CI: 1.15-4.95). Discussion: Prevention programs should take into account the significant levels of substance use/mental disorder comorbidity among homeless youth. Further research is needed to examine how self-medication for mental health symptoms may contribute to this comorbidity.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Analyze substance use/mental disorder comorbidity among homeless youth. Describe substance use correlates of PTSD, suicide attempts and significant depressive symptoms in this population. Discuss further research needed into self-medication for mental disorders among homeless youth.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Substance Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the project director for the study which collected this data. I have been involved in all aspects of research design and implementation. I conceptualized and conducted the analysis and wrote the abstract.
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.