Psychiatric Disorders Often Persist in Juvenile Offenders

MONDAY Oct. 1, 2012 -- Five years after being released from juvenile detention, more than 45 percent of males and nearly 30 percent of females still had psychiatric disorders, a new study finds.

It is well known that psychiatric disorders are common among adolescents in juvenile detention, but it hadn't been known if these disorders persist as the young people age.

"Our study addresses a critical hole in the research," lead author Linda Teplin, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

She and her colleagues initially interviewed nearly 1,200 males and more than 650 females, aged 10 to 18, while they were at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago. The participants were interviewed again as many as four times and up to five years later.

Alcohol and illicit drug use were the most common and persistent psychiatric disorders among the participants. Males were two to three times more likely to have alcohol or drug use disorders than females.

"Although prevalence rates [of psychiatric disorders] dropped over time, some disorders were three times more prevalent than in the general population," Teplin said.

The study was published Oct. 1 in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

"These findings demonstrate the need for special programs -- especially for substance use disorders -- not only while these kids are in corrections but also when they return to the community," Teplin said.

"People think these kids are locked up forever, but the average stay is only two weeks," she noted. "Obviously, it's better to provide community services than to build correctional facilities. Otherwise, the lack of services perpetuates the revolving door between the community and corrections."

More information

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has more about substance abuse treatment for children and teens.

Posted: October 2012


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