Adults on probation are at greater risk of both using substances and having a mental disorder compared to the general population. Several theories explain the relationship between substance use and poor mental health. However, the interaction between substance use, mental health, and substance-related consequences is not well understood. A better understanding of this relationship may help treatment programs become more responsive to people with serious mental illness (SMI).
The current study used interview data from 313 adults on probation who reported recent substance use. We examined associations between SMI risk, substance use, and substance use consequences.
A substantial proportion of the sample (37.5%) screened at risk of having a SMI. Adjusting for type and amount of substance use, those who screened at risk of having a SMI reported more negative substance use consequences. Significant interaction effects were observed between use of alcohol or opiates and SMI risk. Alcohol use was associated with more negative substance use consequences among those at risk of SMI, while opiate use was associated with more consequences among those not at risk.
Programs are sorely needed to identify and treat adults with comorbid substance use and mental health symptoms, particularly for adults in the justice system. Clinicians should carefully consider how mental health may interact with substance use to exacerbate consequences.