Prevalence of adolescent substance use disorders across five sectors of care

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2001 Apr;40(4):419-26. doi: 10.1097/00004583-200104000-00010.


Objective: To examine the prevalence of substance use disorders (SUDs) among adolescents who received services in one or more of the following public sectors of care: alcohol and drug (AD), juvenile justice (JJ), mental health (MH), public school-based services for youths with serious emotional disturbance (SED), and child welfare (CW), in relation to age, gender, and service sector affiliation.

Methods: Participants included 1,036 adolescents aged 13 to 18 years, randomly sampled from all youths who were active in at least one of the above five sectors of care (N = 12,662) in San Diego County California. SUDs were assessed through structured diagnostic interviews conducted from October 1997 through January 1999.

Results: SUDs were found for youths in all sectors of care, with lifetime rates of 82.6% in AD, 62.1% in JJ, 40.8% in MH, 23.6% in SED, and 19.2% in CW. Rates of SUDs were significantly higher among older youths and males. Sector differences held even when accounting for the effects of age and gender.

Conclusions: SUDs are highly prevalent among youths receiving care in the AD service sector as well as other sectors, particularly JJ and MH. These findings have implications for assessment, treatment, and service coordination for youths with SUDs in diverse sectors of public care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Criminal Law / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Public Sector
  • School Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy