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What the data tell us....

Diane Park - Thursday, November 20, 2014

Prevalence of Substance Use and Co-occurring Disorders in Adolescents

Recent research indicates the extent of the problem of substance use disorders in youth. Data gleaned from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication - Adolescent Supplement shows that of the 10,123 adolescents aged 13 to 18 who were interviewed, 11.4% had a substance use disorder (Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Volume 49, Number 10, October 2010, p.984). Couple this data with a study that estimates that the rates of co-occurring mental illness among adolescents with substance use disorders ranges from 60-75% (2004, Turner, Muck, Muck, Stephens and Sukumar) and the result is that between 7-8.5% of adolescents have a co-occurring mental health and substance use disorder. This population of youth has been largely underserved.

Perspectives from Families of Youth with Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders

In the summer and autumn of 2012, MCF held seven focus groups with families in different regions of the state. Criteria for participating in the group were: caregiver of a youth under the age of 24 with co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders; and a resident of Maryland. In all, 49 family members attended the focus groups. Some of the key findings:

  • 70% of families said that their child was abusing or dependent on drugs/alcohol (more than casually using or experimenting)
  • 67% of families felt that their child's mental health disorder led to their substance abuse disorder
  • All families talked about the difficulty of accessing appropriate treatment for their child

Although a question about heroin use was not asked of the families, a number of caregivers indicated that their child was dependent on heroin.

Drug Overdose Deaths

Recent data released by the Mental Hygiene Administration (now the Behavioral Health Administration) addresses the topic of drug overdose deaths in Maryland from 2007 to 2013. It shows a 32% increase in drug overdose deaths from 649 in 2010 to 858 in 2013. Heroin deaths largely have contributed to this increase. In 2010, 39% of overdose deaths were from heroin; in 2013, 52% of the deaths were from heroin.

What We Can Do....

Preventing Overdose Deaths

One initiative is the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Maryland's Overdose Response Program's Naloxone project. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can quickly restore the breathing of a person who has overdosed on heroin or a prescription opioid medication. Launched in March 2014, one of the goals of the program is to train and certify qualified individuals, including family members, friends and associates of opioid users, for when emergency medical services are not immediately available. Successfully trained individuals will receive a certificate allowing them to obtain and have filled a prescription for Naloxone.

New MCF Initiatives Relating to Substance Use

MCF has established its first Family Navigator position specifically dedicated to serving families of youth with substance use issues. A Family Navigator is a caregiver of a child with intensive behavioral health needs who provides information, support and assistance to other families trying to access services for their child by using peer support. This Family Navigator will empower families caring for youth with challenges related to substance use by providing individual family-to-family support, education, advocacy, coaching, information and referral and follow-up. This position will focus on Central Maryland, with some dedicated hours in Baltimore City, thanks to support from Behavioral Health System Baltimore. To view this job posting, see our employment opportunities.

MCF is also committed to supporting the dissemination of Naloxone among families throughout the state who have a youth who is addicted to heroin. MCF is in the initial phase of an initiative to train and certify family members to administer Naloxone. More on this new project in future newsletters.

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