Substance Use, Substance Use Disorders, and Treatment in Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Survivors—Results From a National Survey
- The authors assessed substance use, misuse, and substance use disorders, as well as the receipt of treatment for substance use disorders, among adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer survivors.
- In a nationally representative AYA sample, cancer survivors, despite their increased risk for morbidity and early mortality, were as likely as or more likely than peers without cancer to experience substance use problems.
- In particular, survivors had a significantly higher rate of prescription opioid misuse than peers.
- However, only 1 in 5 AYA survivors who experienced substance use disorders received treatment.
- These findings underscore the importance of interventions toward reducing substance use and improving access to treatment among AYA survivors.
Substance use can exacerbate cancer-related morbidity and mortality in adolescent/young adult (AYA) cancer survivors and place them at increased risk for adverse health outcomes. The objective of this study was to assess substance use, misuse, and substance use disorders [SUDs], as well as receipt of treatment for SUDs, among AYA cancer survivors.
The authors used data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (2015-2018) to identify a nationally representative sample of AYAs aged 12 to 34 years. Outcomes assessed past-year tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drug use; misuse of prescription opioids; SUDs; and SUD treatment. Multiple logistic regression was estimated to compare outcomes between 832 AYAs who reported a cancer history (survivors) and 140,826 AYAs who did not, adjusting sequentially for sociodemographic characteristics and health status.
In regressions adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, survivors were more likely than a noncancer comparison group of peers to use alcohol (6% relative increase; P = .048) and illicit drugs (34% relative increase; P = .012), to misuse prescription opioids (59% relative increase; P < .001), and to have a marijuana (67% relative increase; P = .011), illicit drug (77% relative increase; P < .001), or prescription opioid (67% relative increase; P = .048) SUD. When further adjusting for health status, survivors were still 41% more likely (P < .001) to misuse prescription opioids than non-cancer peers. Among those with SUDs, survivors were more likely than peers to receive treatment (unadjusted, 21.5% vs 8.0%; adjusted, P < .05).
AYA survivors were as likely as or more likely than noncancer peers to report substance use problems. These findings underscore the importance of interventions to reduce substance use and improve SUD treatment among AYA cancer survivors.