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Treating Depression, Anxiety Reduces Risk of Substance Abuse in Youth

Two studies on adolescents suggest that mental health treatment can help patients avoid substance use disorders.

Treating depression in adolescents can head off the risk of substance abuse, indicate two recent studies.  Youth who'd received effective short-term treatment for depression were significantly less likely to begin to abuse substances.  The results held across study participants who'd received different but similarly effective treatments for depression.

"It turned out that whatever they responded to – cognitive behavioral therapy, Prosaic, both treatments, or a placebo – if they did respond within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop a drug-use disorder," John Curry, the study's lead researcher, said.

Adolescents who had alcohol and substance use disorders before receiving treatment for depression, however, did not show any reduction in use.  Depression treatment alone also failed to stem alcohol abuse, particularly among those with recurrent depression. The findings of the five-year study appeared in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Further information and an interview with the researchers appear in Health24.  

 
In a separate large-scale study, youth with mental health disorders being treated for pain were found to be more than twice as likely to receive long-term opioid treatment versus no prescribed pain medicines. The opioids were prescribed to treat headaches, back or neck pain or other common chronic pain complaints. Anxiety and depression have been associated with increased symptoms of pain.

The study tracked nearly 60,000 youth aged 13 to 24 over seven and a half years, and researchers defined long-term opioid use as having more than 90 days of use in a six-month period with no gap in use lasting longer than 30 days.

 
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