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Detection and Prevalence of Substance Use Among Juvenile Detainees

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2004
16 pages
This document discusses a study aimed at determining the prevalence of substance abuse among juvenile detainees.
The Northwestern Juvenile Project was a study of 1,829 juveniles sampled from intake at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago (Illinois). Researchers gathered extensive self-report data on substance use and collected urine samples for drug analysis. The goal was to provide practical guidance for juvenile justice policymakers and administrators planning drug detection and treatment programs. The first section presents background information on the effects of substance use and abuse on adolescent development, demonstrating the significant role of this factor in delinquency. The second section reviews literature on the measurement of illicit substance use in detained and securely confined juvenile populations and assesses the state of the science. The third section presents empirical findings from the Northwestern Juvenile Project on the relative merits of self-report and urinalysis measures and on the prevalence of illicit substance use among detained juveniles by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and type of substance. The most important finding was the general confirmation of high rates of drug use among youth entering detention. Among youth that have made the transition to using drugs more serious than marijuana, neither self-reporting nor urinalysis provides a good measure of use. The final section discusses the implications of these findings. It is concluded that presently there is no single reliable method for detecting substance use and abuse among juvenile detainees. The best approach to reliable assessment uses a combination of existing methods, together with information from a range of other sources that indicate a youth’s involvement with drugs. 9 endnotes, 4 tables, 80 references

Date Published: June 1, 2004