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Does age at first treatment episode make a difference in outcomes over 11 years?

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This study examines the associations between age at first substance use treatment entry and trajectory of outcomes over 11 years. We found significant differences in individual and treatment characteristics between adult intakes first treated during young adulthood (25 years or younger) and those first treated at an older age. Compared to their first treated older age counterparts matched on demographics and dependence type, those who entered first treatment during young adulthood had on average an earlier onset for substance use but a shorter duration between first substance use and first treatment entry; they also had worse alcohol and other drug outcomes 11 years post treatment entry. While subsequent substance use treatment and 12-step meeting attendance are important for both age groups in maintaining positive outcomes, relationships varied by age group. Findings underline the importance of different continuing care management strategies for those entering first treatment at different developmental stages.

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