Substance abuse is a primary factor in the delinquent behavior of many youth. Delinquency and drugs affect communities across America. Adolescent substance abusers are more difficult to treat than adult substance abusers. The pressures created by physical, hormonal, and emotional changes produce stressors that are magnified by typical adolescent developmental drives for individuality, separation, autonomy, and social acceptance (NCJRS, 2000).
In an effort to understand the seriousness of juvenile substance abuse, one must look at the trends in alcohol and other drug use. The following summarizes recent trends in substance abuse among youth in the United States:.
Youth in the general population have reported steadily rising levels of alcohol and other drug use since 1992, but levels of use have not returned to the peak rates reported in the 1980's (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 1998; Johnston, O'Malley, and Bachman, 1998).
Youth are beginning to use alcohol and other drugs at earlier ages, and use increases steadily with age (SAMHSA, 1998; Johnston, O'Malley, and Bachman, 1998).
As youth perceive that alcohol and other drugs are less harmful than they previously believed their attitudes about the use of alcohol and other drugs become less negative, their use of these substances increases (SAMHSA, 1998; Johnston, O'Malley, and Bachman, 1998).
Among male youth entering the juvenile justice system in 13 cities across the country, between 40.3 percent and 68.7 percent tested positive for illicit drugs at arrest or booking according to the 1998 report of the Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (National Institute of Justice [NIJ], 1999).
Male juveniles with drug offenses have the highest rates of positive urinalyses for illegal drugs, but property and violent offenses clearly are also linked to drug use (NIJ, 1998). National data about substance abuse by female delinquents is not available.