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Identification & Treatment Of Mental Health Issues

We most commonly associate drinking with the offense of drunk driving. While research has shown that impaired drivers frequently have a substance use disorder, many of these offenders also have a psychiatric condition in addition to their drinking problem. In fact, studies have shown that the presence of a substance use disorder actually increases an individual’s likelihood of having other psychiatric disorders.

Mental health issues often linked to impaired drivers include depression, bipolar disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, anti-social personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For example, in a study of repeat DUI offenders, it was found that 45% had a lifelong major mental disorder. Another study that examined the prevalence of these disorders by gender found that 50% of female drunk drivers and 33% of male drunk drivers have at least one psychiatric disorder.

A recent exploratory case study of the characteristics of female impaired drivers also found that women frequently report the presence of one or multiple mental health issues other than substance dependence. Among this particular population, a history of trauma is also quite common.

Failure to identify and treat the mental health issue might be missing a major part of the problem as psychiatric disorders are linked to recidivism. In other words, if you address only one issue and ignore the other, it is likely that the treatment needs of an offender will not be met and the overall outcomes will be less than favorable.

To learn more about the relationship between mental health issues and DUI offending, refer to the CARS Training Center Library. Division on Addiction staff can provide access to cited academic articles that have password protection.