Prevention of substance use in children/adolescents with mental disorders: a systematic review. Journal Articles uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: WE CONDUCTED A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW TO ANSWER THE QUESTION: Among youth ≤18 years of age with a mental disorder, does substance use prevention compared to no prevention result in reduced rates of substance use/abuse/disorder (SUD)? The review was requested by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research Evidence on Tap program. METHODS: A four-step search process was used: Search 1 and 2: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated a SUD prevention intervention in individuals with a mental disorder who were: 1) ≤18 years; or, 2) any age. Search 3: Observational studies of an intervention to prevent SUD in those with mental disorder. Search 4: RCTs that evaluated a SUD primary prevention skills-based intervention in high-risk youth ≤18 years. RESULTS: Searches 1 and 2: one RCT conducted in youth was found; Search 3: two observational studies were found. All three studies reported statistically significant reductions in substance use. Search 4: five RCTs were found with mixed results. Methodological weaknesses including inadequate study power may explain the results. CONCLUSIONS: Little is known about effective interventions to prevent SUD in youth with a mental disorder. Effective SUD primary prevention programs exist and should be evaluated in this high-risk group.


  • Salvo, Nadia
  • Bennett, Kathryn Jane
  • Cheung, Amy
  • Chen, Yvonne
  • Rice, Maureen
  • Rush, Brian
  • Bullock, Heather
  • Bowlby, Anne
  • Evidence on Tap Concurrent Disorders Collaborative Team

publication date

  • November 2012