Substance Use, Mental Illness and Violence: The Co-Occurrence of Problem Behaviors Among Young Adults

  • Richard A. Van DornEmail author
  • James Herbert Williams
  • Melissa Del-Colle
  • J. David Hawkins
Regular Article


A paucity of research exists in which the co-occurrence of substance use, mental illness, and violence in young adults is examined. Concurrently, there is also a lack of research explicating the contribution of theoretically based risk factors for these problematic outcomes in this population. This lack of both outcome and explanatory research equally affects the utility of theories and interventions for this population. This article utilizes a sample of N = 633 21-year-olds to examine the prevalence of (1) violence and substance use, (2) mental illness (i.e., mood and anxiety disorders) and substance use, and (3) the use of multiple substances and investigates the relationship between various social determinants and said outcomes. Overall, the prevalence rates for the comorbid conditions were low; although on average males had higher rates than did females. Individual attitudes, perceived opportunities, and recent stressful life events were associated with the co-occurrence of outcomes. Implications for behavioral health are explored.


co-morbidity mental health risk factors substance use violence young adults 



This research was supported by grants #1R01DA09679-11 and #9R01DA021426-08 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, #R24MH56587-06 from the National Institute of Mental Health, and #21548 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard A. Van Dorn
    • 1
    Email author
  • James Herbert Williams
    • 2
  • Melissa Del-Colle
    • 3
  • J. David Hawkins
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, Florida Mental Health InstituteUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of Social WorkUniversity of DenverDenverUSA
  3. 3.School of Social WorkArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  4. 4.Social Development Research Group, School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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