The Prevalence of Substance Use Disorders Among Community-Based Adults with Legal Problems in the U.S

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Background: Current national prevalence estimates of DSM-5 diagnosed substance use disorders (SUDs) among adults with justice system involvement are lacking. Methods: This study drew from NESARC-III data (n = 36,309; 2012–2013), a nationally representative U.S. sample, to examine current and lifetime alcohol use disorder (AUD) and drug use disorder (DUD) diagnoses among adults reporting current or prior drug-related, alcohol-related, and general legal problems. Results: Adults reporting current alcohol-related legal problems were 22 times more likely to have a current AUD diagnosis (AOR = 22.0, 95% CI = 12.1; 40.1) and 15 times more likely to have had a lifetime AUD diagnosis (AOR = 15.2, 95% CI = 7.5; 30.9) than adults without alcohol-related legal problems. Adults with lifetime drug-related legal problems were 3–5 times more likely to have a current (AOR = 2.6, 95% CI = 2.1; 3.2) and lifetime (AOR = 5.1, 95% CI = 4.3; 6.1) DUD diagnosis, with stimulant use disorder being the most prevalent (AOR = 5.4, 95% CI = 4.5; 6.5). Adults with general legal problems were around 3 times more likely to have a current AUD (AOR = 3.2, 95% CI = 2.6; 4.0) or DUD (AOR = 3.5, 95% CI = 2.8; 4.4). Women with any type of legal problem were more likely to have SUD diagnoses than men. Conclusions: SUD diagnoses are prevalent among adults reporting legal problems, particularly those involving alcohol. There is a continued need for community-based addiction prevention and intervention efforts, especially for women with justice system involvement.