Characteristics and Outcomes of Young Adult Opiate Users Receiving Residential Substance Abuse Treatment

Abstract: Opiate use patterns, user characteristics and treatment response among young adults are of interest due to current high use prevalence and historical low levels of treatment engagement relative to older populations. Prior research in this population suggests that overall, young adults present at treatment with different issues. This study investigated potential differences between young adult (18-25 years of age) and older adult (26 and older) opiate users and the impact of differences relative to treatment motivation, length and outcomes. Data for this study was drawn from 760 individuals who entered voluntary, private, residential treatment. Study measures included the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), the Treatment Service Review (TSR), and University of Rhode Island Change Assessment (URICA). Interviews were conducted at program intake and six-month post-discharge. Results indicate that older adults with a history of opiate use present at treatment with higher levels of severity for alcohol, medical and psychological problems and young adults present at treatment with greater drug use and more legal issues. Significant improvement for both groups was noted at six months post treatment; there were also fewer differences between the two age groups of opiate users. Results suggest different strategies within treatment programs may provide benefit in targeting the disparate needs of younger opiate users. Overall, however, results suggest that individualized treatment within a standard, abstinence- based, residential treatment model can be effective across opiate users at different ages and with different issues, levels of severity and impairment at intake.


  • Samuel MacMaster, PhD, University of Tennessee
  • Siobhan A. Morse, MHSA, Foundations Recovery Network

Accepted for publication in Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work

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