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The Relationship of Psychological Distress and Living with Children and Adolescents for Adult Non-medical Prescription Opioid Users


Prescription opioid use has been recognized as a major public health crisis in the United States. In 2015, more than 2 million persons had an opioid-related substance use disorder. Past research has directly linked opioid misuse to mental health problems. Child welfare systems have observed the effect of the opioid epidemic on families. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of adult non-medical prescription opioid use with psychological distress for families with children and adolescents. This study used data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The sample in this analysis included 38,775 adults 18 and older. Multivariate regression analysis using survey design weights was used to examine the effect of past year non-medical prescription opioid use on psychological distress, measured by the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6). Results indicated that adult opioid misuse was associated with increased psychological distress (b = 0.47, 95% CI [0.23, 0.71], β = 0.02, p < .001). Subgroup analysis revealed that for adult opioid users, having children or adolescents in the household was associated with higher psychological distress (b = 0.72, 95% CI [0.18, 1.25], β = 0.02, p < .05), while for non-users, it was associated with lower psychological distress (b = − 0.13, 95% CI [− 0.24, − 0.03], β = − 0.02, p < .05). Public policies targeting this health crisis must consider how resources should address opioid use within family systems. Social workers are on the front-line among providers that serve adults who live with children and adolescents affected by this crisis, and can play a critical role in screening, assessing, and delivering mental health services for this at-risk population.

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Correspondence to Keith T. Chan.

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Keith T. Chan and Jeffrey Trant declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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Chan, K.T., Trant, J. The Relationship of Psychological Distress and Living with Children and Adolescents for Adult Non-medical Prescription Opioid Users. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 35, 391–405 (2018).

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