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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003 Nov;42(11):1318-26.

Detection and outcomes of substance use disorders in adolescents seeking mental health treatment.

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Centers for Mental Healthcare Research, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 5800 W. 10th Street Suite 605, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.



To compare detection rates, service use, and outcomes of substance use disorder (SUD) in adolescents seeking mental health treatment.


Adolescents (n = 237) and their parents or caregivers completed parallel, self-administered versions of the Adolescent Treatment Outcomes Module (ATOM) at intake and 6-month follow-up. SUD was assessed using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC).


Although 42 (16.6%) adolescents seeking mental health treatment met DISC criteria for any SUD at baseline, clinicians detected only 19 of these (kappa = 0.51). Sensitivity and specificity were high for a screening tool for adolescent SUD (95.2 and 82.0, respectively). Adolescents with undetected SUD were less likely to receive SUD services and to have more legal problems at 6-month follow-up compared to adolescents with detected SUD.


SUD rates may be high in adolescents seeking mental health treatment, confirming the need for routine screening in this population. Results confirm that a large gap exists between the need for and access to SUD treatments, which may contribute to poorer outcomes for all adolescents with SUD.

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