Misuse of amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) drugs may disrupt key neurodevelopmental processes in young people and confer protracted neurocognitive and psychopathological harm. ATS users with a co-occurring psychiatric illness are typically excluded from research, reducing generalisability of findings. Accordingly, we conducted a cross-sectional examination of key clinical, sleep, socio-occupational and neurocognitive measures in current, past and never users of ATS drugs who were accessing a youth mental health service (headspace) for affective- or psychotic-spectrum illnesses. Contrary to hypotheses, groups did not differ in psychotic symptomology, socio-occupational functioning or neurocognitive performance. Current ATS users were however significantly more distressed and reported poorer subjective sleep quality and greater subjective sleep disturbances than never users, with a trend toward greater depressive symptomology in current users. Regression analyses revealed that depressive symptoms, daily ATS use and socio-occupational functioning predicted distress, and depressive symptoms and distress predicted subjective sleep quality. Our findings suggest that distress and poor sleep quality reflect a particular pathophysiology among ATS-using patients, which may negatively impact treatment engagement. Delineating the factors that disrupt social and neurobiological development in young people (such as substance use) warrants further investigation, including longitudinal study.
- Youth mental health