The Relation Among Substance Abuse, Comorbid Psychopathology, and Reported Violence in a Multiethnic Sample

Kevin P. Conway, Yale University School of Medicine
Andrea Gonzalez, Yale University
Kathleen Merikangas, Yale University School of Medicine

This study investigated the relation among substance abuse/dependence, comorbid psychopathology, and violence among Puerto Ricans and African Americans living in urban areas of New Haven (CT). Participants were recruited either from clinic sources (outpatient substance/mental health facilities) or households within neighborhoods inhabited by clinic-recruited subjects. A total of 313 Puerto Rican and 116 African American adults were interviewed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview to producer psychiatric diagnoses according to DSM-IV criteria. Six types of self-reported violence (partner violence, partner victimization, stranger violence, witness to violence, sexual violence, and threat of violence) were ascertained from various questionnaires. Results indicate that, for both the Puerto Rican and African American samples, individuals with substance abuse/dependence reported elevated rates of both intra- and extra-familial violence, and were more likely to meet criteria for several psychiatric disorders, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Logistic analyses indicated that individuals with substance abuse/dependence, compared to those without, were at significantly greater risk of violence, even after adjusting for psychiatric comorbidity and demographic indicators. Findings underscore a link between substance abuse/dependence and violence that is not explained by co-occurring psychiatric disorders. The current study is the first to demonstrate this relation among ethnic minorities.

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Updated 05/20/2006