Alcohol and drug use among adolescents: and the co-occurrence of mental health problems. Ung@hordaland, a population-based study

BMJ Open. 2014 Sep 22;4(9):e005357. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005357.


Objectives: The use of alcohol and drugs is prevalent among adolescents, but too little is known about the association between debut of alcohol and drug use, problematic use and concurrent mental health. The aim of the study was to investigate the cross-sectional association between debut of any alcohol or drug use and alcohol-related and drug-related problems and mental health. We also wanted to examine potential interactions between gender and age, and alcohol-related and drug-related variables.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Population-based sample of Norwegian adolescents.

Participants: Data stem from the large population-based ung@hordaland study (N=9203), where all adolescents aged 17-19 years living in Hordaland county (Norway) were invited to participate. The main independent variables were debut of alcohol and drug use, alcohol consumption and the presence of alcohol and drug problems as measured by CRAFFT.

Outcomes: The dependent variables were self-reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, inattention and hyperactivity. Statistical analyses included logistic regression models.

Results: Debut of alcohol and drug use were associated with symptoms of depression, inattention and hyperactivity (crude ORs 1.69-2.38, p<0.001), while only debut of drug use was associated with increased symptoms of anxiety (OR=1.33, CI 95% 1.05 to 1.68, p=0.017). Alcohol-related and drug-related problems as measured by CRAFFT were associated with all mental health problems (crude ORs 1.68-3.24, p<0.001). There was little evidence of any substantial age or gender confounding on the estimated associations between alcohol-related and drug-related measures and mental health problems.

Conclusions: Early debut of alcohol and drug use and drug problems is consistently associated with more symptoms of mental health problems, indicating that these factors are an important general indicator of mental health in adolescence.


MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*