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Racial/Ethnic Differences of Justice-Involved Youth in Substance-Related Problems and Services Received

NCJ Number
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry Volume: 88 Issue: 3 Dated: 2018 Pages: 363-375
Leanne L. Heaton
Date Published
13 pages

This study examined differences in substance-related problems and receipt of substance-specific counseling in seven racial/ethnic groups of justice-involved youth.


Data were obtained from a nationally representative sample of 7,073 youth in residential placement across 36 states representing five program types. Descriptive analyses and regression modeling techniques were used to examine the relationship between race/ethnicity, substance problems, and substance services. Results show that about two-thirds of the youth reported a history of at least one substance-related problem. Yet, just over 12 percent of youth in residential placement were in programs that did not offer any substance-related services. This has the greatest implications for African American and Hispanic youth, who are most likely to be in programs without these services. Moreover, there are substantive differences in the prevalence of substance problems by race and ethnicity. American Indian/Alaska Natives and multiracial youth were significantly more likely to have substance-abuse problems, to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the current offense, to have a history of substance problems and above average mental health need, and to have a history of substance problems and a lifetime suicide attempt compared to African Americans. Asian youth were similar to African Americans and had lower rates of substance problems. Asian youth were also the least likely to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol at the time of the current offense. This study provides important preliminary findings about Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and multiracial justice-involved youth and adds to the knowledge about American Indian/Alaska Native populations. (publisher abstract modified)