Professor works to detect teen substance abuse

Dr. Matthew Corrigan, director of the Master of Social Work Program at Seton Hall, was recently hired by the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services to help implement the community level intervention entitled “Communities That Care.” The program works to promote the health of young people in the area.

He has created a screening tool of questionnaires for adolescents’ risk of substance use with the Adolescent Domain Screening Inventory (ADSI).

Dr. Matthew Corrigan helped implement a community level drug intervention program. Photo courtesy of Dr. Matthew Corrigan.

“The ADSI is an evidence-based assessment tool useful in identifying problematic domains, or life areas, for adolescents who have initiated or who are at risk of initiating substance use,” Corrigan said.

He worked with Dr. James Forte from Salisbury University, and his mentors, Mrs. Lynn Videka and Barry Loneck.

Corrigan explained that the ADSI system has both advantages and disadvantages of detecting substance use among adolescents.

He said that the system has shown promising results and can identify adolescents that are most in need of intervention by discovering the most problematic or troublesome life area for each participant.

The disadvantage, Corrigan said, is that the ADSI works like a net. It covers all areas that could possibly affect an adolescent’s risk “while an individual who is potentially at risk, but who is really not, could experience discomfort from this mis-identification. It is thought that the cost of not identifying one who is truly struggling is too great to pay.”

The ADSI is a 33-question scale. According to Corrigan, the five most predictive questions of substance use include questions such as: If you wanted to get some marijuana, how easy would it be for you to get some? Or about how many adults have you known personally who in the past year have used marijuana, crack, cocaine, or other drugs?

Diane Lynch, director of Health Services, explained that there are high risk behaviors for all students and faculty to look out for if they are worried about someone around them. Alcohol is the most commonly reported drug use by the Seton Hall community.

Through her reports, she found that binge drinking (five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in one sitting) and heavy drinking (15 or more drinks per week for men and eight or more drinks per week for women) were the two most important signs to recognize someone at risk for substance use.

With the use of this information and the new ADSI program, adolescents have a number of sources around them to help themselves and others that are at risk for substance use.

“The screening tool is simple and noninvasive,” Thomas Irwin, a junior biology major, said. “It sounds effective in making sure people get the help they need.” He stressed that because the system is noninvasive, adolescents will be less resistant to taking the tests.

Erika Szumel can be reached at

Author: Erika Szumel

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