Study Finds Repeat DUI Offenders Have Higher Levels of Psychiatric Comorbidity

Posted on October 28th, 2009
Posted in Dual Diagnosis

For those who are guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, psychiatric comorbidity – or the combination of a mental disorder and developmental disability – appears to be at a higher level. Such information is important for those seeking to better understand the psychiatric profiles of repeat DUI offenders. A better understanding of their psyche may help lead to better prevention.

A study completed by Shaffer, Nelson, LaPlante, LaBrie, & Albanese in 2007 examined epidemiological information about the frequency of psychiatric disorders among repeat DUI offenders involved in a treatment program. This group was considered to be comparable to the general U.S. adult population.

Under Massachusetts law, judges can offer adults who have received two or more DUI convictions participation in a two-week inpatient treatment program. Acceptance in the program is an alternative to incarceration. As part of the procedure, counselors administer a truncated version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).

This comprehensive, standardized and computer-guided instrument is used to assess an interviewee for the presence of substance use and other mental disorders. Researchers compared the psychiatric profiles of 729 eligible and consenting consecutive admissions during a period of 15 consecutive months to National Comorbidity Survey Replication data.

Of the sample involved in the study, 81 percent were male, 88 percent were Caucasian and the average age was 39.7. The majority at 72 percent had a high school education and 32 percent had an income lower than $20,000. Another 63 percent were employed and 97.6 percent qualified for a substance use disorder during their lifetime.

Overall, researchers found that the DUI treatment population consistently had a greater likelihood of disorder than the general population. This realization could help lead to the development of more effective treatment and even diagnosis methods to curb DUI numbers.

Like most studies, this one did have its own limitations. For one, the study could not necessarily generalize to all repeat offenders in Massachusetts or anywhere else in the country. In addition, the treatment program involved in the study only served 53 percent of those repeat offenders who had been sentenced to treatment and then agreed to treatment instead of prison.

Even with these limitations, the results did demonstrate that multiple DUI offenders are more likely than the general population to be inflicted with comorbid psychiatric disorders in addition to the fact that they abuse a particular substance. As a result, it is important for treatment and prevention programs to examine this possibility and its likelihood in order to be more effective.

 

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