Health disparities in drug- and alcohol-use disorders: A 12-year longitudinal study of youths after detention

Leah J. Welty, Anna J. Harrison, Karen M. Abram, Nichole D. Olson, David A. Aaby, Kathleen P. McCoy, Jason J. Washburn, Linda A. Teplin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Objectives. To examine sex and racial/ethnic differences in the prevalence of 9 substance-use disorders (SUDs) - alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogen or PCP, opiate, amphetamine, inhalant, sedative, and unspecified drug - in youths during the 12 years after detention. Methods. We used data from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a prospective longitudinal study of 1829 youths randomly sampled from detention in Chicago, Illinois, starting in 1995 and re-interviewed up to 9 times in the community or correctional facilities through 2011. Independent interviewers assessed SUDs with Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children 2.3 (baseline) and Diagnostic Interview Schedule version IV (follow-ups). Results. By median age 28 years, 91.3% of males and 78.5% of females had ever had an SUD. At most follow-ups, males had greater odds of alcohol- and marijuana-use disorders. Drug-use disorders were most prevalent among non-Hispanic Whites, followed by Hispanics, then African Americans (e.g., compared with African Americans, non-Hispanic Whites had 32.1 times the odds of cocaine-use disorder [95% confidence interval = 13.8, 74.7]). Conclusions. After detention, SUDs differed markedly by sex, race/ethnicity, and substance abused, and, contrary to stereotypes, did not disproportionately affect African Americans. Services to treat substance abuse - during incarceration and after release - would reach many people in need, and address health disparities in a highly vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)872-880
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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