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Illicit drug use and cognitive distortions confer significant risks to youth suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, there has been limited evidence regarding the efficacy of suicide prevention interventions with homeless youth, especially studies testing whether such interventions can reduce the risk for suicidal ideation associated with illicit drug use. Suicidal homeless youth (N = 150) between the ages of 18 to 24 years were recruited from a drop-in center. Youth were randomly assigned to Cognitive Therapy for Suicide Prevention (CTSP) + Treatment as Usual (TAU) or TAU alone. Youth reported their illicit drug use, cognitive distortions, and suicidal ideation 4 times over 9 months. A multiple-group multilevel structural equation model showed that higher illicit drug use at baseline predicted a slower reduction in cognitive distortions and suicidal ideation in the TAU group. These associations were not found in the CTSP + TAU group, suggesting an interruption of such risk from illicit drug use. Findings suggest that CTSP can reduce the risk of illicit drug use as a treatment barrier towards cognitive distortions and suicidal ideation among homeless youth, with implications to improve treatment efforts and to reduce premature mortality in a vulnerable population. Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


Qiong Wu, Jing Zhang, Laura Walsh, Natasha Slesnick. Illicit Drug Use, Cognitive Distortions, and Suicidal Ideation Among Homeless Youth: Results From a Randomized Controlled Trial. Behavior therapy. 2022 Jan;53(1):92-104

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PMID: 35027161

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