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Juveniles and Drugs

Overview / Extent of Use / Health Effects / Treatment / Arrests & Sentencing / Other Links / Sources

Overview

Although recent trends in youth drug use have shown the first significant downturn in usage levels, they remain at high levels and it has been shown that the earlier drug use is initiated, the more likely a person is to develop drug problems later in life. 1

Youth substance abuse can lead to many other problems, including the development of delinquent behavior, anti-social attitudes, and health-related issues. These problems not only affect the child, but can also influence the child's family, community, and ultimately society. 2

Extent of Use

Recent trends in youth drug use have shown a significant downturn in usage levels. However, reducing youth drug use remains a key component of the President's National Drug Control Strategy because studies have demonstrated that the earlier drug use is initiated, the more likely a person is to develop drug problems later in life. 3

According to the 2007 Monitoring the Future study, 19.0% of eighth graders, 35.6% of tenth graders, and 46.8% of twelfth graders reported using any illicit drug within their lifetimes. 4

Percent of Students Reporting Illicit Drug Use, 2006–2007

8th Grade
10th Grade
12th Grade
2006
2007
2006
2007
2006
2007

Past month

8.1%

7.4%

16.8%

16.9%

21.5%

21.9%

Past year

14.8

13.2

28.7

28.1

36.5

35.9

Lifetime

20.9

19.0

36.1

35.6

48.2

46.8

According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) , conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , approximately 38% of high school students surveyed nationwide used marijuana during their lifetime. 5

Percent of Students Reporting Drug Use, 2003–2007

2003 2005 2007

Lifetime marijuana

40.2%

38.4%

38.1%

Current marijuana

22.4

20.2

19.7

Lifetime cocaine

8.7

7.6

7.2

Current cocaine

4.1

3.4

3.3

Lifetime inhalant

12.1

12.4

13.3

Lifetime heroin

3.3

2.4

2.3

Lifetime meth

7.6

6.2

4.4

Lifetime ecstasy

11.1

6.3

5.8

Lifetime steroid

6.1

4.0

3.9


According to the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, youths who participated in activities during the past year were less likely to have used drugs in the past month than youths who did not participate in activities. Among youths aged 12 to 17 who participated in two or more youth activities (for example, band, sports, student government, or dance lessons), 10.4% had used an illicit drug in the past month. Among youths indicating one or no youth activities in the past year, 17.9% reported past month illicit drug use. 6

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Health Effects

Persistent substance abuse by young people often leads to academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society. 7

Mental health problems, including depression, developmental lags, apathy, withdrawal, and other psychosocial dysfunctions, are frequently linked to substance abuse among adolescents. Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, and suicide. Marijuana use, which is prevalent among youth, has been shown to interfere with short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills. Motivation and psychosexual/emotional development also may be influenced. 8

Substance abuse among youth has also been strongly linked to delinquency. Arrest, adjudication, and intervention by the juvenile justice system are eventual consequences for many youth engaged in alcohol and other drug use. Substance abuse does not directly cause delinquent behavior, and delinquency does not directly cause alcohol and other drug use. However, the two behaviors are strongly correlated and often bring about school and family problems, involvement with negative peer groups, a lack of neighborhood social controls, and physical or sexual abuse. 9

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) study reports the number of people seeking emergency department (ED) treatment related to illegal drug use or non-medical use of legal drugs. ED episodes for persons ages 12 to 17, in 2005, is estimated to be 50,457. Of these episodes, marijuana was mentioned 37,790 times; cocaine was mentioned 9,295 times; stimulants were mentioned 7,542 times; and MDMA (Ecstasy) was mentioned 2,068 times. 10

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Treatment

In 2006, there were 2.1 million youths aged 12 to 17 (8.2% of this population) who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem. Of this group, only 181,000 youths received treatment at a specialty facility (approximately 8.7% of youths who needed treatment), leaving 1.9 million youths who needed treatment for a substance use problem but did not receive it at a specialty facility. "Specialty" treatment is defined as treatment received at any of the following types of facilities: hospitals (inpatient only), drug/alcohol rehabilitation facilities (inpatient or outpatient), or mental health centers. It does not include treatment at an emergency room, private doctor's office, self-help group, prison or jail, or hospital as an outpatient. 11

During 2006, approximately 7.7% of the drug/alcohol admissions to treatment facilities in the U.S. involved individuals ages 17 and younger. Among the individuals ages 15 and younger admitted to treatment during 2006, 61.2% were being treated for primary abuse of inhalants. 12

Juvenile Treatment Admissions, by Primary Drug, 2005

Drug Type Under 15 15–17
Alcohol
8.6%
7.4%
Alcohol w/secondary drug
9.3
12.7
Heroin
0.3
1.0
Other opiates
0.4
1.0
Cocaine—smoked
0.5
1.0
Cocaine—other route
0.9
2.2
Marijuana
61.2
65.5
Meth./amphetamine
2.5
4.6
Other stimulants
0.3
0.1
Tranquilizers
0.2
0.3
Sedatives
0.2
0.2
Hallucinogens
0.1
0.2
PCP
<0.05
0.1
Inhalants
0.9
0.2
Other/none specified
14.3
3.5

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Arrests & Sentencing

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Crime in the United States, there were 143,639 juveniles (under the age of 18) arrested by state and local law enforcement agencies for drug abuse violations during 2006, representing 10.4% of the drug arrests in which the offender's age was reported. 13

During FY 2004, 1.9% (526) of those arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were under the age of 19. Of the DEA arrests involving those under age 19, there were 97 arrests involving powder cocaine, 103 arrests involving crack cocaine, 150 arrests involving marijuana, 94 arrests involving methamphetamine, 39 arrests involving opiates, and the remaining 43 arrests involved some other type of drug or were for a non-drug reason. 14

According to preliminary data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) Program , a median of 59.7% of male juvenile detainees and 45.9% of female juvenile detainees tested positive for drug use in 2002. The male samples were compiled from 5 U.S. sites and the female samples were compiled from 4 sites. 15

Juvenile Detainees Testing Positive for Drugs, 2002

Male Female

Any Drug

59.7%

45.9%

Marijuana

57.7

32.5

Cocaine

5.5

5.1

Opiates

0.0

0.0

Methamphetamine

0.0

5.2

The number of juvenile court cases involving drug offenses more than doubled between 1990 and 1999. During 1999, juvenile courts in the U.S. handled an estimated 191,200 delinquency cases in which a drug offense was the most serious charge. Drug offense cases accounted for 11% of all delinquency cases during 1999, up from 5% in 1990. The number of juvenile drug offense cases processed in 1999 was 169% greater than in 1990. 16

According to a one day census of juvenile offenders in residential placement on October 27, 1999 there were 9,882 juvenile offenders in custody for drug offenses. Almost one third of the juvenile drug offenders were in residential placement for drug trafficking. 17

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Other Links

Freevibe
A Media Campaign Web site that provides drug-related information for youth.

InfoFacts: High School and Youth Trends
This resource presents data on juvenile drug use, including trends from 1995–2005.

Keeping Your Kids Drug Free: A How-To Guide for Parents and Caregivers (PDF)
The Guide is a drug prevention brochure that provides parents and caregivers with real-life tips on how to keep kids drug free.

National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
The Campaign is a multi-dimensional effort designed to educate and empower youth to reject illicit drugs.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
OJJDP provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization.

What You Need to Know About Drug Testing in Schools
This guide is designed to assist educators, parents, and community leaders in determining whether student drug testing is appropriate for their schools.

Youth and Drugs Publications
A listing of youth drug abuse-related publications from various sources.

Youth Substance Abuse Data
This SAMHSA site provides data related to youth substance abuse.

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Sources

1 Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy, 2003 , February 2003

2 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System , May 1998

3 Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy, 2006 , February 2006

4 National Institute on Drug Abuse and University of Michigan, 2007 Monitoring the Future Study Drug Data Tables, December 2007

5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: Youth Online: Comprehensive Results

6 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings , September 2004

7 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System , May 1998

8 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Drugs, Crime, and the Justice System, 1992

9 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System , May 1998

10 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2005: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits , March 2007

11 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings , 2007

12 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) Highlights—2006 , February 2008

13 Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2006 , September 2007

14 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Compendium of Federal Justice Statistics, 2004 , December 2006

15 National Institute of Justice, Preliminary Data on Drug Use & Related Matters Among Adult Arrestees & Juvenile Detainees, 2003

16 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Drug Offense Cases in Juvenile Courts, 1990-1999 (PDF), September 2003

17 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Juveniles in Corrections , June 2004.

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