Background: Co-occurring mood and anxiety disorders are highly prevalent amongst substance-using young adolescents, and have been associated with a range of adverse outcomes. Few studies however have examined the impact of affective disorders in samples of older adolescents and young adults attending youth drug treatment services.
Methods: One hundred young people (mean age 19.4 years) were recruited from two youth drug treatment services in Melbourne, Australia. A structured interview and questionnaires assessing drug use, psychopathology, risk-taking behaviours and quality of life were administered at a mutually convenient location.
Results: Fifty percent of the sample met criteria for at least one current mental health disorder. Excluding individuals with a current psychotic illness (n=3), 49% met criteria for a current mood or anxiety disorder, with 68% reporting a lifetime history. There were high rates of current Major Depressive Disorder (MDD; 27%) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD; 26%) within the sample. Participants with these disorders were more likely to have a higher number of comorbid disorders, report more substance-related problems and a poorer quality of life.
Limitations: Cross-sectional design, lack of biological assays.
Conclusions: In older adolescence and emerging adulthood, young drug users with comorbid affective disorders have greater mental health and substance use morbidity than those with substance use problems alone. These findings have important clinical implications for the management and rehabilitation of young people with substance use disorders.