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Delinquent youth with PTSD need individualized treatment, study suggests

by Sharita Forrest / Oct 3, 2016

Jordan Davis and Joey Merrin

Jordan Davis and Joey Merrin

Juvenile offenders who have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder are at 67 percent greater risk of entering substance abuse treatment within seven years, a new study found.

“It’s quite shocking, honestly, and really speaks to the lasting impact of early childhood trauma,” said lead author Jordan Davis, a doctoral student in social work at the University of Illinois.

Joey Merrin, a doctoral student in child development in the Department of Educational Psychology, co-authored the study with Davis. He said that trauma blunts the development of the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with decision-making and impulse control.

“As a result, individuals who experience more trauma and stress may respond differently to social situations,” Merrin said.

He added that their research suggests that social and environmental risk factors play a central role in the development and maintenance of substance use and criminal behavior during emerging adulthood. Providing personalized resources after treatment ends, Merrin said, is an important step in sustaining reductions in drug use and criminal behavior.

Read the full article from the Illinois News Bureau, and read the paper “Social ecological determinants of substance use treatment entry among serious junior offenders from adolescence through emerging adulthood,” written by Davis, Merrin, Tara Dumas and Eric Wagner.