Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Addiction. 2002 Dec;97 Suppl 1:46-57.

Characteristics and problems of 600 adolescent cannabis abusers in outpatient treatment.

Author information

  • 1University of South Florida, USA.



Risk factors among adolescent substance abusers have been shown to correlate with substance use severity. Characteristics related to severity, such as demographic and family factors, peer influences, psychiatric co-morbidity and HIV risk behaviors, are examined for a sample of adolescent cannabis users entering treatment.


These data are from a clinical trial study utilizing blocked random assignment of clients to one of five treatment conditions. The study targeted adolescents entering outpatient treatment for primarily cannabis abuse or dependence.


Treatment and research facilities in four metropolitan areas of the US were used to recruit study participants. Treatment was delivered in outpatient drug-free settings.


Participants were 600 clients, ages 12-18, admitted to outpatient substance abuse treatment programs for cannabis problems, 96% with DSM-IV diagnoses of substance abuse or dependence, with the remaining 4% having at least one symptom of dependence plus significant problems indicating need for treatment.


The Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) was used to collect the information presented in this paper. The GAIN incorporates DSM-IV criteria for substance use disorders, conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as dimensional (scale) measures for physical and mental health.


All participants reported at least one symptom of substance use disorders, and 46% met the DSM-IV criteria for substance dependence, while 50% met criteria for a diagnosis of abuse. Only 20% of the participants perceived any need for help with problems associated with their drug or alcohol use. Clients participating in the study typically presented multiple problems at treatment entry, most often including conduct disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), internal (mental) distress, and physical health distress. The co-occurrence of conduct disorder and ADHD was found in 30% of the sample. Clients meeting criteria for substance dependence tended to have more co-occurring problems and significantly less denial at admission.


The characteristics of this sample exemplify the complex nature of adolescent substance use and abuse among adolescents entering outpatient treatment programs. Patterns of co-occurring problems are at rates comparable to those found in other clinical studies. Those with more severe substance use disorders tend to manifest more problems of social functioning, more mental health problems, and physical health problems. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of treatment needs, challenges, and prognostic implications.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Wiley
    Loading ...
    Support Center