Objective: This study tested a cognitive-behavioral treatment protocol for adolescents with a co-occurring alcohol or other drug use disorder (AOD) and suicidality in a randomized clinical trial.
Method: Forty adolescents (Mage = 15 years; 68% female, 89% White) and their families recruited from an inpatient psychiatric hospital were randomly assigned to an integrated outpatient cognitive-behavioral intervention for co-occurring AOD and suicidality (I-CBT) or enhanced treatment as usual (E-TAU). Primary measures include the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children, Suicide Ideation Questionnaire, Columbia Impairment Scale, Timeline Followback, Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index, and Rutgers Marijuana Problem Index. Assessments were completed at pretreatment as well as 3, 6, 12, and 18 months postenrollment.
Results: In intent-to-treat analyses, I-CBT was associated with significantly fewer heavy drinking days and days of marijuana use relative to E-TAU but not with fewer drinking days. Those randomized to I-CBT in comparison to E-TAU also reported significantly less global impairment as well as fewer suicide attempts, inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and arrests. Adolescents across groups showed equivalent reductions in suicidal ideation.
Conclusions: I-CBT for adolescents with co-occurring AOD and suicidality is associated with significant improvement in both substance use and suicidal behavior, as well as markedly decreased use of additional health services including inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations and emergency department visits. Further testing of integrated protocols for adolescent AOD and suicidality with larger and more diverse samples is warranted.