Research: Psychiatric comorbidity among first-time and repeat DUI offenders

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Abstract: Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances is a serious public health concern. Previous research has shown that psychiatric comorbidity is more prevalent for repeat offenders than the general population, and that first-time offenders exhibit elevated rates of psychiatric comorbidity, but few studies have directly compared first-time and repeat DUI offenders. The current study compares psychiatric comorbidity among repeat and first-time DUI offenders. First-time and repeat DUI offenders completed the screener module of the Computerized Assessment and Referral System (CARS), adapted from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI: Kessler & Ustun, 2004), to measure potential psychiatric comorbidity. For 16 of 19 psychiatric disorders, repeat DUI offenders were more likely to screen positive during their lifetime compared with first-time DUI offenders. Similarly, repeat DUI offenders were more likely to screen positive during the past year for 11 of 16 assessed psychiatric disorders. Overall, repeat DUI offenders screened positive for an average of 6.3 disorders during their lifetime, compared to first-time offenders who screened positive for an average of 3.7 disorders. Repeat DUI offenders also screened positive for more past-year disorders (M = 3.3) than first-time offenders (M = 1.9). Compared to first-time offenders, repeat DUI offenders evidence more severe and pervasive psychiatric comorbidity. Further research is necessary to determine whether psychiatric comorbidity among first-time offenders directly predicts re-offense. If so, screening for mental health issues among first-offenders could provide valuable information about how best to allocate resources for these offenders.

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