Understanding the complexity, patterns, and correlates of alcohol and other substance use among young people seeking help for mental ill-health

Caroline X. Gao), Kate M. Filia, Gillinder Bedi, Jana M. Menssink, Ellie Brown, Debra J. Rickwood, Alexandra G. Parker, Sarah E. Hetrick, Helen Herrman, Ian Hickie, Nic Telford, Patrick D. McGorry, Sue M. Cotton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Use of alcohol and other substances is a multifaceted issue impacting young people across multiple life domains. This paper aims to elucidate patterns of substance use and associated demographic and clinical factors among young people seeking treatment for their mental health. Methods: Young people (12–25 years old) were recruited from five youth-specific primary mental health (“headspace”) services in Australia. Self-reported substance use and harms in the past 3 months were measured using WHO-ASSIST. Network analyses were conducted to evaluate interrelationships between use and harms associated with different substances. Subgroups were then identified based on whether participants reported using high centrality substances, and associated demographic and clinical factors were assessed with multinomial logistic regression. Results: 1107 youth participated. 70% reported use of at least one substance in the past 3 months, with around 30% of those reporting related health, social, legal or financial problems. Network analysis highlighted substantial interconnections between use and harm indicators for all substances, with amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and cannabis being high central substances. Higher levels of substance use and harms were reported in subgroups with ATS or cannabis use and different risk factors were associated with these subgroups. Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of screening for substance use in youth primary mental healthcare settings, offering a key opportunity for early intervention. Clinicians should be aware of the inner connections of use and harms of different drugs and the role of cannabis and amphetamine use as a marker for more substance use profiles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1457-1467
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number10
Early online date13 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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