Individual young people, their families, communities, and society often experience profound consequences from adolescents' use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs. The juvenile justice system is charged with community protection, holding youth accountable for their behavior, and helping youth develop competencies for their journey toward fulfilling and productive adult lives (Maloney, Romig, and Armstrong, 1988). If juvenile justice agencies and professionals are to reclaim delinquent youth, they must intervene effectively with those who are using alcohol and other drugs. To focus solely on delinquent behavior, to the exclusion of substance abuse, is impractical.

The first step of effective intervention must be the identification of youth who are engaged in using alcohol and other drugs. Once equipped with information about youth in their care who abuse substances, juvenile justice professionals must make appropriate case management decisions and intervene productively to curb youth's delinquent behavior associated with or exacerbated by substance abuse. Drug testing can be used as an intervention tool to help youth overcome denial of substance abuse problems, hold them accountable for their behavior, and underscore a consistent message to all youth about striving to live drug free. Such interventions will enhance the lives of individual youth and their families, protect citizens in the community, and preserve the resources of the juvenile justice system currently being consumed to address juvenile crime related to substance abuse.

Recognizing the critical problem of substance abuse in the juvenile justice system and the need to manage it more effectively, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has funded several projects to investigate innovative and appropriate methods to identify and intervene with substance-abusing youth. Two of these are highlighted in this Summary. OJJDP awarded funding to conduct one of the projects to the American Correctional Association (ACA) and the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc. (IBH) in October 1989. The American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) received funding in October 1990 to conduct a complementary project. Each organization prepared and provided training and technical assistance to help different types of juvenile justice agencies develop or enhance programs to identify, screen, and test juveniles for illicit drug involvement.

This Summary reviews the ACA/IBH and APPA programs and the findings of each project. Both programs emphasized the development of effective strategies for screening and testing youth for illicit drug use. Alcohol use and abuse is also a critical problem among juveniles. These projects, however, focused on identification of other illegal drug use to assess the utility of implementing relatively new, and not universally trusted, techniques of chemical testing for illicit drug use. Program outcomes provide guidance and resource information, presented later in this document, for juvenile justice agencies wishing to develop similar programs to identify, screen, and test juveniles for illicit drugs.

Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System May 1998