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J Psychoactive Drugs. 2004 Mar;36(1):13-25.

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.

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  • 1University of Arizona Southwest Institute for Research on Women, Services Research Office, Tucson, Arizona 85714, USA. sstevens@dakotacom.net


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. This study includes 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 three, six, 12 and 30 months later were examined with regard to substance use, mental health, and criminal justice involvement. Results indicate 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. 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.

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