The majority of adolescents treated for substance use disorder (SUD) in the United States are now referred by the criminal justice system. Little is known, however, regarding how justice-system involvement relates to adolescent community treatment outcomes. Controversy exists, also, over the extent to which justice system involvement reflects a lack of intrinsic motivation for treatment. This study examined the relation between justice system referral and reported reason for treatment entry and tested the extent to which each predicted treatment response and outcome.
Adolescent outpatients (N = 127; M age = 16.7, 24% female) with varying levels of justice-system involvement (i.e., no justice system involvement [No-JSI; n = 63], justice-system involved [JSI; n = 40], justice system involved-mandated [JSI-M; n = 24]) and motivation levels (i.e., self-motivated [n = 40], externally-motivated [n = 87]) were compared at treatment intake. Multilevel mixed models tested these groups' effects on percent days abstinent (PDA) and odds of heavy drinking (HD) over 12 months.
JSI-M were less likely to be self-motivated compared to No-JSI or JSI (p = 0.009). JSI-M had higher PDA overall, but with significant declines over time, relative to no-JSI. Self-motivated patients did not differ from externally-motivated patients on PDA or HD.
Mandated adolescent outpatients were substantially less likely to report self-motivated treatment entry. Despite the notion that self-motivated treatment entry would be likely to produce better outcomes, a judicial mandate appears to predict an initially stronger treatment response, although this diminishes over time. Ongoing monitoring and/or treatment may be necessary to help maintain treatment gains for justice system-involved adolescents.
Participation in 12-step mutual help organizations (MHO) is a common continuing care recommendation for adults; however, little is known about the effects of MHO participation among young adults (i.e., ages 18-25 years) for whom the typically older age composition at meetings may serve as a barrier to engagement and benefits. This study examined whether the age composition of 12-step meetings moderated the recovery benefits derived from attending MHOs.
Young adults (N=302; 18-24 yrs; 26% female; 94% White) enrolled in a naturalistic study of residential treatment effectiveness were assessed at intake, and 3, 6, and 12 months later on 12-step attendance, age composition of attended 12-step groups, and treatment outcome (Percent Days Abstinent [PDA]). Hierarchical linear models (HLM) tested the moderating effect of age composition on PDA concurrently and in lagged models controlling for confounds.
A significant three-way interaction between attendance, age composition, and time was detected in the concurrent (p=0.002), but not lagged, model (b=0.38, p=0.46). Specifically, a similar age composition was helpful early post-treatment among low 12-step attendees, but became detrimental over time.
Treatment and other referral agencies might enhance the likelihood of successful remission and recovery among young adults by locating and initially linking such individuals to age appropriate groups. Once engaged, however, it may be prudent to encourage gradual integration into the broader mixed-age range of 12-step meetings, wherein it is possible that older members may provide the depth and length of sober experience needed to carry young adults forward into long-term recovery.