Clinical characteristics of treatment-seeking adolescents with opioid versus cannabis/alcohol use disorders

Geetha A. Subramaniam, Maxine L. Stitzer, George Woody, Marc J. Fishman, Ken Kolodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To assess the clinical characteristics of adolescents with DSM-IV opioid use disorder (OUD) and compare them to adolescents with cannabis/alcohol use disorders. Method: 94 adolescents (ages 14-18 years) with a current OUD and 74 adolescents with a current non-OUD cannabis/alcohol use disorders were recruited from admissions, predominantly residential, to a substance abuse treatment program in Baltimore, ML. Participants were assessed cross-sectionally using standardized interviews and self-reports. Chi-square, t-tests and ANCOVA (adjusting for age, gender and treatment setting, race and residence) were performed to determine group differences on demographic, substance use, psychiatric and HIV-risk behaviors; logistic regression analyses, both unadjusted and adjusted for the above five factors were conducted to assess the strength of associations. Results: The OUD group was more likely to be Caucasian, to have dropped out of school and to live in the suburbs (trend). They also had greater substance use severity with higher proportion of current sedative and multiple substance use disorders (SUD). There were generally no differences in rates of criminal behaviors. Both groups had high rates of current psychiatric disorders (83% vs. 78%, n.s.) but the OUD adolescents reported higher depressive symptoms, mostly in the moderate range. Injection drug use (IDU) and needle sharing was almost exclusive to the OUD group, while both groups reported similar high rates of risky sexual behaviors. Conclusions: While there were similarities between the two groups, OUD adolescents evidenced greater impairment in academic, substance use, depressive symptom and IDU-related HIV-risk areas. Findings suggest poorer long-term prognosis and highlight the need for specialized interventions for treatment-seeking OUD adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-149
Number of pages9
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Adolescent substance abuse
  • Clinical characteristics
  • Heroin use
  • Opioid dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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