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Quality of life and substance use: concepts and recent tendencies

Zubaran, Carlosa; Foresti, Kátiab

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: May 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 3 - p 281–286
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e328328d154
Addictive disorders: Edited by John B. Saunders and Linda B. Cottler

Purpose of review Quality of life (QoL) has become an important clinical and research outcome in clinical drug and alcohol studies. Yet, further advancement in this field is hindered by the lack of a consensual definition of QoL in that often investigators use the constructs of health status and QoL interchangeably. This article reviews the conceptual definitions of QoL as a researchable construct. It also presents the most commonly used questionnaires to evaluate QoL in the context of substance use.

Recent findings In the area of substance use research, the evaluation of QoL has been conducted mainly via generic instruments. Most of the studies reporting results of QoL measurements have obtained their data from opiate users receiving different treatment modalities at various healthcare agencies. Recent studies have used the Injection Drug User QoL Scale as a specific assessment tool. Specific QoL instruments have also been developed in the area of alcohol and nicotine dependence.

Summary QoL is an important clinical and research outcome in the context of substance use. However, the indiscriminate use of nonspecific measurement tools may produce questionable results. A new generation of specific tools takes into particular consideration the life areas that have a greater influence on the QoL of substance users. It is hoped that the new impetus toward a specific QoL assessment in the context of substance use will promote further scientific advancement in this area.

aSchool of Medicine, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia

bSchool of Medicine, University of Caxias do Sul, Caxias do Sul, Brazil

Correspondence to Carlos Zubaran, Department of Psychiatry, West Sydney Area Health Service, PO BOX 6010, Blacktown, NSW 2148, Australia Tel: +61 02 98818000; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.