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Drug and alcohol problems amongst individuals with severe mental health problems in an inner city area of the UK.

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  • 1Northern Birmingham Mental Health NHS Trust and School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, UK.



The extent and impact of drug and alcohol use among those with severe mental health problems has been well documented in the US. However, little is known of the nature of this problem in the UK, particularly in community treatment settings. This paper outlines findings from a large-scale survey conducted across community-based Mental Health and Substance Misuse services, which aimed to ascertain the prevalence of drug and alcohol problems among those with severe mental health problems.


An assessment instrument was completed by keyworkers for each of their clients, which included mental health diagnosis and an adapted version of the Clinician Rating Scales for Alcohol and Drug Use.


From a sample of 3079 clients across services, 1369 clients were identified with a severe mental illness diagnosis. According to their key-workers, 24% of these clients (324/1369) had used alcohol and/or drugs problematically during the past year. These individuals were most likely to have a diagnosis within the schizophrenia cluster, were mainly white males in their mid-30s, and tended to be located within Mental Health services in Assertive Outreach teams and to be higher utilisers of crises/emergency services.


It can be concluded that similar to other studies in inner city areas of the UK, problem substance use is common amongst those with severe mental health problems within Northern Birmingham.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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