Poly-use of cannabis and other substances among juvenile-justice involved youth: variations in psychological and substance-related problems by typology [2019]

Background: Adolescent cannabis use is associated with increased risk for psychological problems, with evidence for more severe problems among youth who use cannabis in combination with other substances (i.e., polysubstance use). Juvenile offenders engage in both cannabis use and polysubstance use at higher rates than the general adolescent population. Yet, limited research has examined the relationship between cannabis poly-use (e.g., cannabis and alcohol use) and functional or psychological problems among juvenile offenders.

Objectives: The current study addresses this gap by examining the association of polysubstance use of cannabis compared to cannabis only use with cognitive functioning, psychological distress, and substance-related problems among juvenile detainees.

Methods: Participants were 238 detained youth ages 12–18 (80.4 % male, 77.3% non-White) who completed assessments of substance use, intellectual functioning, psychological symptoms, and substance-related problems. Youth were also assessed by a clinical psychologist for substance use disorder.

Results: Four cannabis-use typologies were identified; cannabis and alcohol use was the largest class, followed by cannabis only use, cannabis, alcohol and other drug use, then cannabis and other drug use. Polysubstance use was associated with lower scores on measures of intellectual functioning, more externalizing and internalizing symptomology, and more substance-related problems relative to cannabis only use. However, the relationship between polysubstance use and problems varied by typology.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that justice-involved youth engaged in polysubstance use may be at greater need for concurrent academic, affective, and behavioral support in their rehabilitation and transition back to the community.

Devin E. Banks , MS, Alexandra R. Hershberger , MS, Taylor Pemberton, Richelle L. Clifton , BA, Matthew C. Aalsma , PhD & Tamika C. B. Zapolski , PhD
The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Encompassing All Addictive Disorders, 08 Jan 2019