Substance use in youth at risk for psychosis

Rebekah Carney, Alison Yung, G. Paul Amminger, Timothy Bradshaw, Nicholas Glozier, D. F. Hermens, I. B. Hickie, Eoin J. Killackey, Patrick McGorry, Christos Pantelis, Stephen J. Wood, R Purcell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People with schizophrenia have high rates of substance use which contributes to co-morbidity and premature mortality. Some evidence suggests people at-risk for psychosis have high rates of substance use. We aimed to assess substance use in a help-seeking cohort, comparing those at-risk and not at-risk for psychosis, and to establish any relationship with clinical symptoms.

Participants were help-seeking youth presenting to mental health services in Sydney and Melbourne. 279 (34.8%) were at-risk for psychosis, and 452 (56.4%) did not meet criteria for a psychotic disorder or risk for psychosis. The excluded individuals were made up of 59 (7.4%) young people who met criteria for a psychotic disorder and 11 (1.4%) who were unable to be evaluated. We assessed the association of substance use involvement with risk status and clinical symptoms using multivariate regression.

Individuals at-risk for psychosis had significantly higher tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use than those not at-risk. Multivariate analysis revealed at-risk status was significantly associated with higher alcohol involvement scores when adjusting for age and gender, but no association was found for cannabis or tobacco. At-risk status was no longer associated with alcohol involvement when cannabis or tobacco use was added into the analysis.

Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and cannabis use are common in help-seeking youth, particularly those at-risk for psychosis. It is important to consider co-occurring use of different substances in adolescents. Early substance misuse in this phase of illness could be targeted to improve physical and mental health in young people.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Early online date30 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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