Long-Term Outcomes for Young People With Substance Use Problems in Outpatient Treatment: Gender-Specific Patterns
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This study presents the results of a longitudinal research project focusing on long-term outcomes among young people after initiation of outpatient treatment for substance use problems (SUP) in Sweden. Young people are defined with the age group 13–25 years. A clinical sample of 451 young people (29% girls, median age 17 years) completed a structured interview at baseline and was followed using official records one, two, and 3 years after initiation of treatment. Gender-specific patterns at intake were described and bivariate associations and logistic regressions were calculated to analyse the links between risk factors at treatment start and indications of substance use problems 3 years later. Significantly more boys than girls displayed indications of continued SUP at 3-year follow-up. More specifically, 49% of the boys vs. 35% of the girls were identified through records as still having problems with substance use. Predictive risk factors also displayed gender-specific patterns. Primary drug use frequency and age at intake predicted indications of SUP among boys but not among girls. Placement in foster care/residential homes, depression, and early drug debut had significant predictive value regarding indications of SUP among females but not among males. Girls also displayed a greater psychosocial burden at treatment start, but a more favourable treatment outcome at follow-up. Youths with a heavy risk load at treatment start (i.e., over six risk factors) did not display a greater risk of SUP at 3-year follow-up, although our results suggest that this subgroup has indications of continued problems with mental health. Consequently, future studies should further explore gender-specific treatment pathways for young people with substance use problems. Since women and girls seem to have different risk factors, co-occurring psychiatric problems and more experiences of trauma compared to men, they might need multidimensional and more comprehensive treatment interventions that run over a longer period.