Australian adolescent females in residential treatment

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Abstract

Introduction and Aims

To investigate factors associated with methamphetamine use in adolescent females referred to an Australian residential treatment service.

Design and Methods

A mixed-methods explanatory sequential design was undertaken. Cross-sectional analysis of existing pre-treatment data for adolescent females aged 13–18 years (median 16.48 years) attending a treatment program between 2009 and 2015 (n = 267) was undertaken, followed by a focus group and in-depth interviews of key staff.

Results

Female methamphetamine-users (n = 127, 47.6%) were significantly more likely than non-methamphetamine-users at pre-treatment to be in unstable living arrangements, where they moved frequently (P = 0.025), lived in more unstable (not rented or privately owned) accommodation (P = 0.012) and had problematic family situations (P = 0.004). They were more likely than non-methamphetamine-users to be to be poly-drug users (P < 0.001) and to have ever attempted suicide (P = 0.029). Cumulative trauma by someone known to the adolescent was the main predictor for female methamphetamine use (odds ratio 3.077). Qualitative data provided context and depth to quantitative findings, with an emphasis on trauma as a precursor to methamphetamine use. The qualitative interviews also highlighted changes made in service provision, given the increasing rates of methamphetamine use.

Discussion and Conclusions

High levels of trauma and mental health problems in this population support the notion that traumatic childhood experiences are strongly associated with problematic alcohol and other drug use, particularly, methamphetamine use, at a young age. Increased attention to decreasing family violence, abuse and neglect is required and in clinical practice, a trauma-informed model of care is recommended.

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