Substance Abuse & Juvenile Delinquency: Prevention & Correction Strategies

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  • 0:03 Substance Use &…
  • 0:43 How Are They Related?
  • 1:37 Prevention & Intervention
  • 3:09 Treatment Strategies
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Leanne White

Leanne has a master's degree and an independent licensure in chemical dependency counseling. She has extended experience in corrections and post-secondary education.

Is there a link between substance abuse and juvenile delinquency? Continue with the lesson to learn if the two are related and what can be done to help prevent and correct the problem.

Substance Use & Juvenile Delinquency

As the rate of adolescent substance use increases so does the rate of youth who commit crimes, or juvenile delinquency. Some believe substance abuse, or the excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol, contributes to delinquent behavior, while others question if it's the delinquent behavior that encourages substance abuse. Either way you look at it, there's a definite link between the two. This is made evident by statistics of youth offenders—more than half of all adolescent offenders report using substances—as well as the fact that drug-seeking adolescents, who do not engage in additional criminal behaviors, are still considered to be delinquent.

How Are They Related?

When an adolescent begins to use drugs at an early age, it creates greater consequences to education, interpersonal, and cognitive development than if they began using later in life. This is due to the fact that the brain isn't fully developed until around the age of 25. Drug use causes irreversible damage to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judgment, emotional control, and decision-making. Because adolescent drug use has long-term health and legal consequences, it is essential for prevention and intervention strategies to be implemented in schools to reduce the rate of adolescent substance use and juvenile delinquency.

Prevention & Intervention

We are far from eliminating adolescent drug use and criminal behavior altogether. However, there are proven, evidence-based strategies that work towards preventing problematic behaviors through education and intervention. There is a wide range of prevention and intervention programs, from D.A.R.E. to Juvenile Drug Court. Each has a different focus and goal related to substance use and delinquent behavior.

The simplest form of prevention strategies targets youth who have yet to engage in problematic behavior. The goal of these programs is to educate youth about the dangers of drug use and to teach them skills that will help them handle risky situations.

Examples of these programs include:

  • Life Skills Training Program
  • Project ALERT
  • Project STAR
  • Caring School Community Program
  • Skills, Opportunity, and Recognition
  • D.A.R.E.

For those adolescents who have already begun experimenting with drugs, there are prevention strategies that focus on reducing the risk of their drug use becoming a serious problem.

Examples of these programs include:

  • SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions)
  • Harm Reduction Programs
  • Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk

Unfortunately, there are those who develop a drug addiction and/or begin engaging in criminal behavior. Although early prevention efforts were unsuccessful for these individuals, there's still a chance of preventing continued drug use and becoming an adult offender. The goal of these programs is aimed at preventing relapse, returning to drug use after a period of abstinence, or diverting the individual towards treatment rather than jail.

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