Research: Externalizing and self-medicating: Heterogeneity among repeat DUI offenders.


AIM: Despite significant reductions in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in the United States during recent decades, DUI continues to be a major public health threat. The current study investigated the intersection of two domains known to influence DUI: criminal history and psychiatric comorbidity.

METHODS: DUI recidivists (N = 743) attending a court-mandated two-week inpatient DUI program completed a computerized mental health assessment as part of their intake to that program. Participants’ criminal records were obtained 4-5 years after program attendance.

FINDINGS: This study identified three primary repeat DUI offender subtypes with distinct patterns of criminal behavior and psychiatric comorbidity: (Type I) those whose DUI emerges from a pattern of drinking to cope with mood and anxiety problems, (Type II) those whose DUI emerges as part of a larger pattern of externalizing and criminal behavior, and (Type III) those whose DUI offenses reflect more acute triggers and isolated episodes of excessive drinking.

CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that current treatment models used in DUI programs are inadequate to address the heterogeneity in the population of DUI recidivists and that earlier and more comprehensive screening would allow for better targeting of resources to DUI offender subtypes.

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