Substance Abuse is Rampant Among Juveniles

Substance abuse is not uncommon among teens since they are the most susceptible to developing an addiction. Similarly, juveniles who are imprisoned are found to be either suffering from a mental illness or addicted to some or the other illicit substance. They not only run the risk of being imprisoned for substance-related crimes but also stand the chance of developing substance abuse problems. This can be corroborated by the fact that the arrest rates for drug-related crimes are the highest among juveniles.

Moreover, juveniles who get into trouble with the law and are booked under the juvenile justice system often suffer from a mental illness, substance use disorder (SUD) or both. Therefore, juveniles are more vulnerable than ever to the effects of substance abuse.

Other external factors such as academic failure, emotional distress, illnesses, domestic violence, and a history of physical or sexual abuse, further exacerbate the problem. Therefore, there is a need for early intervention and treatment to avoid worsening of symptoms.

According to the data released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of the U.S. Department of Justice, the rates of arrests of juveniles in the age group 10 to 17 years, per 100,000 persons, were 459.4 for boys and 129.2 for girls in 2015. These statistics highlight the magnitude of the problem and how bad it can be for young minds that are still evolving and developing.

Even after being released from prison those with substance abuse problems continue to face a lot of challenges that prevent their smooth transition into a normal life within the community. The lack of access to health care due to the increased stigmatization of those children who have been incarcerated before significantly impedes their recovery and increases the likelihood of a relapse and re-arrest.

Inaccessibility to health care and other basic amenities jeopardize recovery

After being released from prisons or correctional facilities, juveniles with substance abuse problems have to wait for a long time to access the benefits and services easily accessible to others, besides the denial of basic amenities.

In the past, when a juvenile or an adult fell under the radar of the criminal justice system, it led to the termination of the benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security. However, some progress has been made in the correctional systems in several states, as these benefits are now suspended and not terminated until the release of the incarcerated juvenile.

Unfortunately, long waiting periods, termination and suspension of benefits can have a devastating effect on the lives of the juveniles who need substance abuse treatment to increase the possibility of recovery and prevent reincarceration. These barriers are particularly of concern to the minority groups, who are comparatively more uninsured and underrepresented in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

Aid within the system and role of family support

To effectively address the above-mentioned problems, juveniles require more access to comprehensive assessment, treatment, case management and support services that are optimum for their age and developmental stages.

The first step of the assessment is crucial because not every juvenile indulging in drugs require treatment. But for those who do, there are various points in the juvenile justice continuum where such decisions could be taken such as juvenile drug courts, community-based supervision, juvenile detention and community reentry.

The presence of the family plays a crucial role in the recovery of juveniles who abuse substances, however, this influence can be either productive or counterproductive in nature depending on the background the juvenile and his or her family are coming from.

Take the rational step to stop abuse

There are various family-based treatment models that target family functioning and interpersonal dynamics. Furthermore, there are various adolescent treatment approaches, such as multisystemic therapy, multidimensional family therapy and functional family therapy. These interventions have displayed positive results in reducing substance abuse among juveniles.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as many as two-thirds of teens in the criminal justice system are said to be living with substance abuse problems. Therefore, early intervention is the need of the hour to prevent the aggravation of this problem.