Drug-involved youth in the juvenile justice system

Although studies of drug use among youth involved in the juvenile justice system are not as large in scale, they indicate that substance abuse among delinquents is unacceptably high. Since 1990, the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) study has measured substance abuse among male detainees/arrestees. Through this study, male juveniles are tested and interviewed in 12 detention centers in the following cities: Birmingham, AL; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Indianapolis, IN; Los Angeles, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; St. Louis, MO; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; San Jose, CA; and Washington, D.C. Participation by youth in the data collection is anonymous and voluntary. Youth testing positive for at least one drug ranged from 19 percent in Portland to 58 percent in Washington in 1995. The percentage of positive results in 1995 for various drugs in each of the test sites is depicted in figure 3. Marijuana was the illicit drug most frequently used by delinquent youth according to these data. The DUF data do not include information on alcohol use by juveniles.

Figure 3

DUF data show increases in illicit drug use by male youth in nearly all locations during a 3-year period. Figure 4 depicts this trend.

Figure 4

Drug Identification and Testing in the Juvenile Justice System May 1998