Identifying patterns of substance use and mental health concerns among adolescents in an outpatient mental health program using latent profile analysis

Though mental health and substance use concerns often co-occur, few studies have characterized patterns of co-occurrence among adolescents in clinical settings. The current investigation identifies and characterizes these patterns among adolescents presenting to an outpatient mental health service in Ontario, Canada. Data come from cross-sectional standardized patient intake assessments from 916 adolescents attending an outpatient mental health program (January 2019-March 2021). Latent profile analysis identified patterns of substance use (alcohol, cannabis, (e-) cigarettes) and emotional and behavioral disorder symptoms. Sociodemographic and clinical correlates of these patterns were examined using multinomial regression. Three profiles were identified including: 1) low substance use and lower frequency and/or severity (relative to other patients in the sample) emotional and behavioral disorder symptoms (26.2%), 2) low substance use with higher emotional and behavioral disorder symptoms (48.2%), and 3) high in both (25.6%). Profiles differed in sociodemographic and clinical indicators related to age, gender, trauma, harm to self, harm to others, and service use. Experiences of trauma, suicide attempts, and thoughts of hurting others increased the odds of adolescents being in the profile high in both substance use and symptoms compared to other profiles. These findings further document the high rates of substance use in adolescents in mental health treatment and the profiles generally map onto three out of four quadrants in the adapted four-quadrant model of concurrent disorders, indicating the importance of assessing and addressing substance use in these settings.


Keywords:

Adolescent; Alcohol; Cannabis; Mental health services; Tobacco.

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