Traumatic Stress and Gender Differences in Relationship to Substance Abuse, Mental Health, Physical Health, and HIV Risk Behavior in a Sample of Adolescents Enrolled in Drug Treatment

Sally J. Stevens, Bridget S. Murphy, Katherine McKnight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

87 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research on traumatic stress (TS) among adolescent substance users is limited, with research indicating that not all adolescents who experience trauma are substance users and not all adolescent substance users report symptoms of TS. In the general adolescent population, research on TS symptoms indicates gender differences, with more females reporting traumatic life events and more symptoms associated with traumatic stress. A gap in research exists, however, with regard to gender differences among adolescent substance users who report low versus acute levels of TS symptoms. This study included 274 male and 104 female adolescents enrolled in four drug treatment programs in Arizona. Comparisons between males and females and those with low versus acute levels of TS symptoms were examined with regard to substance use, mental health, physical health, and HIV risk-taking behavior. Results indicate significant differences between males and females and between those reporting low versus acute TS. In general, females and those with acute levels of TS symptoms had higher levels of substance use, mental health, and physical health problems as well as greater HIV risk behaviors when compared to males and those with low levels of TS symptoms. Results of this study indicate the need to assess adolescents for TS, including victimization and maltreatment histories, when entering substance abuse treatment and the need to simultaneously address issues of substance use, TS, and related mental health, physical health, and HIV sex risk behavior while in treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-57
Number of pages12
JournalChild Maltreatment
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2003

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Drug treatment
  • Gender differences
  • Mental health
  • PTSD
  • Physical health
  • Substance abuse
  • Traumatic stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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