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J Adolesc Health. 2011 Jun;48(6):585-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.09.009. Epub 2010 Dec 18.

Depressive symptoms and patterns of drug use among street youth.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Rates of depression among street youth are poorly characterized, particularly as they pertain to concurrent drug use. We sought to assess associations between drug type and degree of depression in this population.


Between October 2005 and November 2007, data were collected from a cohort of street-recruited youth aged 14-26 residing in Vancouver, Canada, for the At-Risk Youth Study. Active drug users were classified by predominant substance of use: daily marijuana use, weekly cocaine/crack use, weekly crystal methamphetamine use, or weekly heroin use. Adjusted mean number of depressive symptoms (measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression [CES-D] scale) was compared among the four groups using multiple linear regression. Logistic regression was also used to assess adjusted odds of CES-D score ≥ 22.


Among 447 youth, mean CES-D score was the highest among heroin users (adjusted mean: 22.7; standard deviation [SD]:1.2), followed by crystal methamphetamine users (adjusted mean: 21.8; SD: 1.1), then cocaine and/or crack users (adjusted mean: 19.1; SD: 1.0), and finally, marijuana users (adjusted mean: 18.3; SD: 1.1), resulting in a difference that was significant among groups (p < .001). When compared with daily marijuana users, odds of CES-D score ≥ 22 were higher among heroin users (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 2.64; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.39-4.99) and crystal methamphetamine users (AOR: 1.88; 95% CI: 1.04-3.42), but not among cocaine/crack users (AOR: 1.41; 95% CI: .79-2.52).


To our knowledge, this is the first report of drug use typologies and depression among street youth. Policymakers might heed the apparent vulnerability of heroin and crystal methamphetamine users to even greater degrees of depression than their peers.

Copyright © 2011 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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