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Engaging in alcohol and other drug use causes not only the juvenile to suffer but as well as their families and their communities. An increased burden is also placed on the juvenile justice system because of their strong association between substance abuse and delinquency.
Most adult drug users report adolescence as the time when drugs were introduced to them. Due to the potential negative consequences that juvenile drug use poses, considerable effort has been made toward understanding the consequences, prevalence, and causes. Considerable life has been lost to drug abuse and dependence, particularly from the use of alcohol and tobacco. Health-related consequences of teenage substance abuse include accidental injuries, physical disabilities and diseases, and the effects of possible overdoses. The danger of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases increases for substance-abusing youth if they engage in high-risk behaviors. High-risk behaviors include the use of psychoactive substances, particularly those that are injected, or activities resulting from poor judgment and impulse control while experiencing the effects of mood-altering substances. Even death is possible through suicide, homicide, accidents, and illness for youth involved in alcohol and other drugs (Crowe & Dickinson, 1997). Hard drug use is indicated in the deaths of 8,000 Americans each year, while alcohol and tobacco use is implicated in the deaths of 130,000 and 440,000 individuals, respectively (Boyd, 2009).
Information drawn from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicates that drug-related hospital emergency episodes for youth ages 12-17 increased by 17% in 1994 over the rates for 1993. Data from 2005 found that out of the 50,000 12- to 17-year-olds who sought emergency department treatment for medical problems stemming from drug use, only 9,000 sought medical aid for cocaine use (Boyd, 2009). DAWN is a national survey conducted annually by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to estimate drug-related emergency department visits for various substances (Crowe & Dickinson, 1997).
According to Boyd (2009), adolescent drug use negatively impacts cognitive, emotional, and social development and has the potential to stunt memory and learning skills. Adolescent drug use poses a significant risk factor for psychiatric disorders, suicide, accidents, pregnancy, truancy, school dropout, delinquency, and drug abuse and dependence during both adolescence and adulthood. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health in 2005, less than 200,000 of the 2.1 million adolescents estimated to need drug treatment actually received it.
The rate and popularity of drug use among juveniles are captured and monitored by two major surveys: the Monitoring the Future study, previously called the High School Senior Survey, which collects data of the Nationââ‚¬â„¢s youth from 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students since 1975, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which collects data from juveniles ages 12 to 18. Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use, which are referred to as soft drugs, are the three most commonly used drugs among youth. Says Boyd (2009) in 2004, almost 20% of youth were estimated to have used alcohol within the past month. Rates of drug use differ along demographic lines. Rates and popularity increase as youth steer through adolescence. Alcohol and tobacco are typically introduced before marijuana which usually leads to the introduction of hard drugs at older ages. Over 40 theories of adolescent drug use have been developed. Most theories are developed from risk factors stemming from peer, family, school, and community fields of influence that may increase youthââ‚¬â„¢s risk for drug use. Poor school performance; drug norms and attitudes; delinquency; positive drug expectancies; poor relationships with parents; parental conflict; and association with peers, parents, and other adults who use drugs or espouse drug norms and attitudes have been consistently documented as risk factors for youth drug introduction and use.
Racial disparity exists of juveniles in the arrest and formal case processing for drug law violations, with the largest disparity observed between Caucasian and African American youth. African American youth have historically been formally processed at significantly higher rates than Caucasian, even though the average juvenile arrested for violating alcohol or illegal drug laws is a Caucasian 16- to 17-year-old male. Data show that Caucasian youth are less likely to have their drug cases petitioned, be detained and incarcerated, and have their drug cases waived to adult court than youth of other races. For example, in 2002, FBI data indicated that 65% of African American juvenile drug cases were petitioned compared to that of 55% of Caucasian juvenile drug cases. During that year, the proportion of African American youth detained for drug offenses was more than twice that of Caucasian youth (33% vs. 16%), and nearly twice that of youth of other races (17%) (Boyd, 2009).
Arthur (2007) has reported that children of neglectful parents are more likely to suffer impaired psychological development and are also at a higher risk of drug and alcohol abuse and delinquency. In the Office for National Statistics study in 2000, 47% of children evaluated as having a mental health disorder had a parent who was likely to have a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression. Many research studies have found evidence of a strong association between juvenile substance abuse and antisocial behavior in young people.
The results of a Home Office research study on drug testing of arrestees found that 11% of 16- to 20-year-olds tested positive for opiates and 5% tested positive for cocaine. Approximately 65% of the sample of 103 young offenders on supervision orders had used cannabis, over 20% had used ecstasy, over 10% had used cocaine and approximately 6% had used heroin, according to the Audit Commission Study. A study of 50 young offenders for a range of offenses that were on probation found that almost all reported lifetime experiences of at least one illicit substance, with an extremely large percentage who had used crack cocaine (38%), heroin (24%), or methadone (14%) in the previous month. According to Arthur (2007), a study done by Collinson found that drug use figured centrally and excessively in the lives of 59% of a sample of 80 young male offenders in custody. Collinsonââ‚¬â„¢s sample reported figures of 54% for lifetime occurrence of LSD use, 43% for ecstasy and 20% for heroin and cocaine or crack. The Youth Lifestyles Survey supports the finding that juvenile drug use and juvenile offending are associated. Of the serious and persistent offenders aged 12-17, 38% of males and 20% of females admitted to using drugs in the past 12 months, compared to 7% of males and 4% of females for the rest of the cohort. The Youth Lifestyle Survey also found that 75% of persistent offenders reported lifetime use of drugs. In addition to these findings, the survey suggests that the rates of drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin are significantly higher among young serious and persistent offenders than they are to occasionally users.
Drug use was highest among the most frequent offenders and lowest in the less frequent offenders according to the Youth Lifestyles Survey. Over half of the sample of the survey agreed that alcohol or drugs had been associated with their offending and 44% said that they sometimes committed crimes to get money for drugs or alcohol. Research indicated that the risk factors for substance abuse and delinquency overlap substantially. These risk factors include poor parental supervision, a disrupted family background, poor psychological well-being, difficulties in school, school exclusion, truancy, low educational achievement, having been abused, having been in care, parental divorce or separation, or having a family member with a criminal record. It has been suggested that substance abuse and delinquency develop together. Thus, links between juvenile offending and drug use may exist because of the shared background of drug abuse and delinquency, rather than because drug use causes offending (Arthur, 2007).
According to Crowe and Dickinson (1997), a study conducted in 1998 in Washington, D.C., found that youth who sold and used drugs were more likely to commit crimes than those who only sold drugs or only used drugs. Heavy drug users were more likely to commit property crimes than nonusers, and youth who trafficked in drugs reported higher rates of crimes against others. Youth in this sample were most likely to commit burglary or sell drugs while using drugs or while seeking to obtain drugs (Crowe & Dickinson, 1997).
Prescription drugs account for the second most commonly abused category of drugs, behind marijuana and ahead of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs (Office of Natural Drug Control Policy). Taking prescription drugs that have not been recommended by a doctor can be more dangerous than people think it is and is considered drug abuse. Prescription drugs can sometimes be easier to get than street drugs or are sold on the street along with. A 2009 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that prescription drug abuse is on the rise, with 20% of teens saying they have taken a prescription drug without a doctorââ‚¬â„¢s prescription (KidsHealth 2010). Prescription drugs are only safe for the individuals who actually have prescriptions for them. According to the ONDCP, teens are more likely to misuse prescription drugs, believing that these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional. The most commonly used prescription drugs are opiods such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Demerol; central nervous system depressants such as Nembutal, Valium, and Xanax; and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall. During 2006, there were an estimated 741,425 emergency department visits that involved non-medical use of prescription or OTC pharmaceuticals or dietary supplements. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, treatment for prescription painkillers increased more than 400% between 1997 and 2007. Some states have developed prescription monitoring programs, which can help prevent and detect the diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical controlled substances (ONDCP).
Preventive factors that can decrease the risk for drug use include attachment to social others; commitment to goals and dreams; and a belief in and respect for laws and authority. The employment of youth drug prevention programs and the enforcement of drug laws are just two major lines of action that are taken to prevent juvenile drug use. Youth drug prevention programs are typically school-based and utilize primary prevention strategies designed to prevent juvenile drug initiation. Drug prevention programs that have been shown to have the most promise for preventing or delaying drug use include those founded on the social influence model (Boyd, 2009).