Whether mental health symptoms differ according to opiate use predilection

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


By examining measures of psychological distress in a sample of opiate dependant and non- opiate using adolescents, this study attempts to ascertain whether mental health symptoms differ according to opiate use predilection. We also sought to examine gender differences in psychological symptoms among the opiate dependent teenagers.


The Becks Youth Inventory scores of opiate and non-opiate dependant young people presenting for treatment were retrospectively reviewed.


The study was completed with clients from two community youth drug treatment services in Dublin, Ireland (YoDA – Youth Alcohol and Drug Services and the Young Persons Programme at the DTCB).


52 opiate dependant young people and 68 non-opiate using youth, respondents were aged between 15 and 18 years inclusive.


The Becks Youth Inventory 2nd edition (BYI-II) is a 100 item scale and these items accumulate in five scales which measure levels of depression, anxiety, anger, disruptive behaviour and self-concept.

Findings and Conclusions

The heroin using cohort were aged 17.3 years on average, compared to 16.2 years in the non-opiate users.

The heroin-using group demonstrated poorer self concept (p=0.02), greater anxiety (p=0.001), depression (p=0.001) and disruptive behaviour problems (p=0.03) than the non-opiate using group.

There was no significant difference in the anger subscale (p= 0.008). There were no significant differences in subscale scores between genders within the opiate using group.

Whilst a causal relationship between heroin use and psychological distress cannot be stipulated this study found that opiate dependant adolescents self-reported more symptoms of depression, disruptive behaviour, anger, anxiety and a lower self-concept than their non-opiate dependant counterparts.


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Ms Lisa Keane