Substance use disorders and their effect on the psychiatric and justice systems

Am J Addict. 2018 Oct;27(7):574-577. doi: 10.1111/ajad.12789. Epub 2018 Aug 28.


Background and objectives: A high proportion of persons in institutionalized settings such as the criminal justice system and psychiatric hospitals have substance use disorders (SUDs). We explored the association between substance use, demographics, and criminal justice involvement in a population of patients placed on involuntary 72-h holds in a psychiatric facility.

Methods: We retrospectively identified patients aged 18 through 57 years who had been placed on 72-h holds during an acute psychiatric hospitalization during a 1-year period. Data were analyzed with standard descriptive statistics, and data collection was reviewed by 2 randomly assigned psychiatrists.

Results: We identified 336 patients placed on 72-h holds during an acute psychiatric stay. Of these, more than two-thirds (68.5%; n = 230) had an SUD. Compared with patients not using substances, those with SUDs were significantly more likely to be younger (p = .003), male (p = .005), and unmarried (p < .001) and to have criminal justice involvement before (p < .001) and after hospitalization (p < .001). The rate of unemployment was similarly high in both users (67.4%) and nonusers (69.2%).

Discussion and conclusions: Most patients on involuntary psychiatric holds have comorbid SUDs. These patients are more likely to have interacted with the criminal justice system and less likely to have social support in the form of marriage. Unemployment was common among all patients.

Scientific significance: When SUDs are not treated by the criminal justice or mental health system, rehospitalization and criminal recidivism may result. (Am J Addict 2018;27:574-577).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Criminal Law / methods*
  • Criminals / psychology
  • Criminals / statistics & numerical data
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry / methods
  • Forensic Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Institutionalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Involuntary Treatment / methods
  • Involuntary Treatment / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / therapy
  • United States / epidemiology