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Adolescent Substance Use as a Sleep Aid Linked to Poor Mental Health

Lauren E. Guerriero
Ohio Northern University

The link between sleep and mood disorders is well established.  Moreover, substance abuse has been associated with poor sleep and depression.  In a normative high school population it has been found that fewer hours of sleep is associated with increased depressive symptoms and that sleep problems are associated with substance use.  The current study aims to investigate the link between the use of alcohol or drugs as a sleep aid with depressive symptomology, internalizing, and emotional problems among a population of at-risk adolescents.  Secondary analyses were done using a database of adolescents (n=66), aged 12-18, who were referred to a juvenile court for legal and/or behavioral problems.  Analysis was done to investigate whether participants who reported using alcohol or drugs to help them sleep differed on their report of emotional problems, internal mental distress, or depressive symptomology.  Adolescents using alcohol or drugs as a sleep aid are at risk for emotional problems, internal mental distress, and depressive symptoms.  Though the causality of these variables is unclear, the current study suggests that adolescents, particularly those engaging in potentially illegal behaviors, might benefit from a multi-pronged treatment plan including mental health services and sleep education.