Online Program

Examining alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among high school students by mental health status: A local level evaluation of data from two Drug Free Communities grantees in MA

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 9:10 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Lisa Arsenault, PhD, Institute for Community Health, Institute for Community Health, Cambridge, MA
Kelly Washburn, MPH, Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
Julie Carpineto, MFA, Institute for Community Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, MA
Background:  SAMHSA Drug Free Communities (DFC) grantees have demonstrated significant reductions in alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use among middle and high school aged youth.  It is known that those experiencing poorer mental health are more likely to report substance use, thus localities implementing prevention programs, such as those funded by DFC, have a vested interest in evaluating their efforts in relation to the mental health of their target population.   

Methods:  Using local-level health survey data collected from high school students in two DFC grantee communities in Eastern MA in 2008 (n=1,521 and n=1,327) and 2013 (n=1,604 and n=1,400), we examined 5-year change in substance use stratified by mental health status.  A three-category mental health indicator (‘healthy’, ‘moderate’, ‘poor’) was constructed based upon the mental health questions contained in each survey (Pride and YRBS, respectively).

Results:  Analyses confirmed that rates of substance use were significantly lower among students in the ‘healthy’ category.  5-year declines in use were observed across all three mental health categories for most substances examined, including lifetime and 30-day use of cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drug use. Results for marijuana use were less consistent. The full results of our statistical analyses will be presented and the construction and face-validity of our mental health indicators will be discussed.  

Conclusions:  Our evaluation examined existing student level data collected in two DFC grantee communities and yielded evidence that youth-focused substance abuse prevention activities may have a broad impact within the target population.  Such work can be used to inform and improve ongoing prevention activities.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss associations between mental health and substance use among high school age students. Identify ways data on mental health status of youth can inform substance use prevention efforts.

Keyword(s): Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an Epidemiologist III at the Institute for Community Health. I lead analyses on a wide range of public health-related research projects, ranging from community-based interventions to clinical research. I have worked directly on evaluations of evidence based programs for youth including substance abuse prevention and teen pregnancy prevention and have worked with multiple communities on youth needs assessments, including the design and implementation of local-level YRBS studies.
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.