According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one study shows that up to 77% of juvenile offenders have used drugs in some capacity within 6 months prior to arrest. And I stses where marijuana have been legalized, it’s almost certain that the use of the drug has increased. For these reasons , the NIH suggests that almost every juvenile offender caught up in the justice system should be screened for drug use during intake.
There are three ways substance abuse is implicated in juvenile offenses:
- Crimes relating to drug sales or possession
- Taking part in activities that make it easier to come into contact with people who deal or possess drugs (such as people involved in the drug trade)
- Offenses relating to actions taken in service of obtaining drugs, or the means to buy them (such as theft)
It’s important to address substance abuse issues in juveniles who face the criminal justice system. Some young people also have issues with their academic performance, emotional issues, family dysfunction, and may have even dealt with sexual, physical, or psychological abuse as well.
All is not lost for juvenile offenders who need help dealing with substance abuse. Treatments available include case management, recovery treatments that are tailored to their age group, family and life skills training, and multisystemic therapy (MST).
Examining family life is equally important, as parents have the ability to influence their teen and young adult children in either a negative or positive way. Unfortunately, only approximately 20% of juvenile offenders currently in the prison system ever receive adequate treatment.
The NIH has mentioned that substance abuse treatments can help juvenile offenders have positive outcomes. Any treatment must be suitable for the individual receiving it so that a person can succeed at changing decisions, behaviors, and attitudes that caused them to turn to drugs in the first place. Along with therapy, there are medications that can better assist youngsters live a productive life even after coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
An added issue to keep in mind. The brains of juveniles are continuing to mature, up to about when they reach twenty five years of age. The abuse of illicit substances has a potential to do greater neurocognitive danger to teens and young adults then to older abusers with fully matured brains.