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Patterns and contexts of polysubstance use among young and older adults who are involved in the criminal legal system and use opioids: A mixed methods study.

INTRODUCTION: Opioid prevention and treatment programs tailored to young adults involved in the criminal legal system are rare. We examined profiles of polysubstance use among younger and older adults involved in the criminal legal system who use opioids, and explored their experiences and motivations related to substance use. Information gleaned can inform the adaptation of existing programs and the development of novel approaches for young adults in the criminal legal system.

METHODS: Using a sequential mixed methods design we 1) quantitatively identified typologies of polysubstance users among adults aged 18-24 (n = 92) and those age 25 and over (n = 27) involved in the criminal legal system who use opioids, using latent class analysis and 2) qualitatively explored differences in personal motivations, cultural influences, and psychosocial contexts of substance use by class.

RESULTS: Our quantitative results supported a three-class typology: the majority of participants were in Class I (73 %, n = 87) and reported using primarily alcohol and marijuana. Participants in Classes II (15 %, n = 18) and III (12 %, n = 14) endorsed distinct and complicated polysubstance use profiles. Further, participants in Classes I and III were significantly younger than those in Class II. Qualitative analysis allowed us to understand associations between patterns of use, motivations, and contexts among young and older adults, comparing across classes.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results highlight the importance of attending to the needs of subpopulations based on age and use patterns to adapt and develop targeted treatment and prevention programs for high-risk adults involved in the criminal legal system.

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