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Addict Behav. 2007 Sep;32(9):1929-35. Epub 2006 Dec 19.

Substance use and abuse among older youth in foster care.

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  • 1University of Pittsburgh, 2117 Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, United States. mgv6@pitt.edu


The purpose of this study was to explore prevalence and predictors of current and lifetime substance use, substance abuse disorder, and polysubstance use among older youth in foster care. Interviews were conducted with 406 17-year old youth (90% of those eligible) in one state's foster care system between December 2001 and June 2003. Forty-five percent of foster care youth reported using alcohol or illicit drugs within the last six months; 49% had tried drugs sometime during their lifetime and 35% met criteria for a substance use disorder. Having a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder and/or living in an independent living situation significantly increased the likelihood of current and lifetime substance use and disorder. A diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder also predicted increased likelihood of polysubstance use and substance abuse disorder. In conclusion, older youth in the foster care system report similar levels of lifetime alcohol and illicit substance use when compared to the general adolescent population. However, rates of substance use disorder are high. Particularly at risk for both high rates of use and disorder are youth in independent living situations and youth with a diagnosis of Conduct Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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