Study Looks at Risk Factors for Overdose in Adolescents

A team of investigators from the Addiction Recovery Management Service at Massachusetts General Hospital have identified factors that may increase the risk of drug overdose in adolescents and young adults. The results of their study were published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry last month. Here are five things to know:

      1. Substance use patterns are known to differ between youths and adults, and brain regions important to decision-making do not fully mature until individuals are in their 20s.
      2. The strongest substance-associated predictors of an overdose in adolescents were alcohol use disorder, cocaine use disorder and amphetamine use disorder.
      3. Psychiatric conditions associated with overdose include depression, anxiety and eating disorders.
      4. Patients with a history of intentional overdose were more likely to have a history of self-harming behavior and inpatient psychiatric treatment.
      5. The lack of association between opioid use and overdose history in this study could reflect the fact that opioid use usually begins at later ages than substances such as alcohol and cannabis.

“Very little research exists on risk factors associated with overdose in young people presenting for substance use disorder treatment,” says lead and corresponding author Amy Yule, MD, of Addiction Recovery Management Service and the Mass General Division of Child Psychiatry. “In addition to screening for substance-specific risk factors, it is important that providers systematically screen young patients for overdose histories and for psychiatric factors that may increase overdose risk.”

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