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Four-Year Outcomes from Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Treatment
Sandra A. Brown, Elizabeth J. D'Amico, Denis M. McCarthy, Susan F. Tapert
Objective: Knowledge of treatment response for alcohol and drug problems among adults is mounting; less is known about long-term outcome for adolescents who receive treatment for alcohol and drug problems. The current study examined youth substance involvement over 4 years (using five waves of data collection) following treatment for alcohol and drug abuse. Method: A cohort of youth (N = 162, 60% male) treated during adolescence (mean age = 16 years) was followed into young adulthood, a period associated with stabilization of alcohol use patterns and elevated risk for life problems secondary to both alcohol and drug use. Participants (14-18 years old) were consecutive admissions to inpatient adolescent alcohol and drug treatment centers in San Diego that were abstinence focused and based on the 12-step approach. Results: Alcohol and other drug use were reduced during the 4 years posttreatment, with the exception of nicotine. The greatest prevalence reduction occurred for stimulants; modest changes were evident in alcohol and marijuana use. Nicotine was the most commonly used substance throughout the 4 years after treatment. Several distinct substance involvement trajectories were evident during the 4 years following treatment. Conclusions: Alcohol and drug use patterns during the 4 years following treatment highlight both changes and diversity in substance involvement as youth make the transitions from middle to late adolescence and into young adulthood. Findings demonstrate the importance of identifying transitional periods and the need for alternative intervention strategies that may help the progression of this population into young adulthood. (J. Stud. Alcohol 62: 381-388, 2001)