KARA’s Century College Volunteer Dave Mast has written another in depth article. This one uncovers an unhealthy trend in American communities.

To approach the crisis constructively, we need to recognize what needs to happen to decrease drug use by younger and younger children. I would point out that the Missouri model for treating youthful offenders had a dramatic positive impact on juvenile recidivism when it was implemented, and that many states are spending over $200,000 per year per juvenile on punishment oriented models with consistently high failure rates.

As former MN Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz stated about children in child protection, “The difference between that poor child and a felon is about eight years”.

Drug Use by Juvenile Offenders
By Dave Mast

The fact that substance abuse and other crimes are often related is certainly not a secret.

This can be seen every day in the newspaper, in magazines, and on the television news. The same can be said of substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. When children and adolescents get involved with drugs, they often find themselves on pathways to more serious offenses.

What many people do not know is the tremendous extent to which this problem has grown in recent years. Nor are many people aware of the costs that result from juvenile substance abuse.

Drug use and sale in American schools has been the highlight of much research performed on this topic. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University conducts a survey each year aimed at discovering trends in teenage drug use. The survey this year has identified a drastic increase in the percentage of children attending middle schools considered “drug-infested,” meaning that drugs are kept, used, or sold on school property. This year’s survey showed that 32 percent of middle school students were attending drug infested schools, compared to 23 percent in 2009.

The data related to high schools is also rather disturbing. The CASA survey from 2006 showed that 51 percent of high schools were drug-infested, and this figure has risen to 66 percent this year (Feuerberg, 2010).

With drugs being readily available to teens of all ages, the results of juvenile substance abuse are just as noticeable. A 2002 report produced by the National Institute of Justice’s Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program showed that almost 60 percent of male juvenile arrestees and 30 percent of female juvenile arrestees tested positive for marijuana use (Siegel & Welsh, 2006, p. 384).

A study conducted in Miami looked more specifically at the number of crimes committed by juveniles who abused crack cocaine. The 254 children interviewed by the researchers reported committing a combined total of more than 220,000 crimes in the 12 months prior to the study (Siegel & Welsh, 2006, p. 385).

In addition to the physical and psychological effects of such lifestyles on these youths, there is a major financial burden put on the justice system that must be paid for by taxpayers. How much does juvenile substance abuse cost America? A study in 2005 by CASA shows that of the total $244 million spent by the federal government in that year on juvenile corrections, an estimated $194 million was spent on juvenile offenders who were substance abusers (CASA, 2009, p. 23).

Attacking the roots of drug problems and preventing children and teenagers from becoming substance abusers can not only provide them with brighter futures, more opportunities, and happier lifestyles, but it has the potential to lighten the burden on the country financially and reduce the strain on the justice system.


Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. (2009). Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from http://www.casacolumbia.org/articlefiles/380-ShovelingUpII.pdf

Feuerberg, G. (2010). Young Teens Becoming More Exposed to Illicit Drugs, According to National Survey. Retrieved September 12, 2010, from http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/41354/

Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2006). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

1 Comment

  1. well i listened to a programme on cnbc months back about drugs and illegal substances and the conclusion was we cant stop the circulation and sale of these substances, adults using substances is devastating but juveniles..the numbers are growing right under our eyes..
    The peogrammes and all that is all good, but this problem emmanates from the foundation which is the family, what are we doing to our kids or what are we not doing that leaves them seeking for drugs and a life of crime, what ? If our next generation of leaders all doing drugs and are in jail houses..its terrible.

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