Using illicit drugs by minors (youths below 18 years of age) is strictly forbidden in most countries including the United States. When youths of a society; the juveniles, choose to use drugs, it could mean the start of a million more problems, not only for themselves but also their parents, the whole society and the government. Drug use and involvement in crime are closely related and research has shown that youths using drugs are also involved in acts of delinquency.
Medical evidence also proves that an intoxicated individual can act in unsafe and unpredictable manner. This means that a huge burden lies on the government’s shoulders. It has to tackle the increasing demand for medical facilities in order to treat drug related diseases, stop drug trafficking, solve problems of criminal activity and threatened security of the rest of the society. If these problems are handled effectively and preventive measures for the future are implemented then there is a hope for the future.
The solution lies in realizing the actual reasons behind the juveniles’ decision for taking drugs. REASONS BEHIND JUVENILE DRUG USE “Surveys indicate that more than half of all high school aged students used drugs. ” (Siegel & Welsh, 2004, p. 232). Such alarming statistics ask for our immediate attention and intervention as parents and members of official organizations dealing with juvenile drug use and delinquency. It is very important to know which factors compel youths to turn to drugs.
Undoubtedly schools are highly beneficial and are an essential part of the education and upbringing of an individual however some problems associated with school life if not properly dealt with may cause serious harm to an individual’s mental and physical health. “About 25% of approximately 40 million children and adolescents enrolled in America’s 82,000 public elementary and secondary schools are at risk of school failure”. (Cited in Elrod & Scott, 1999, p. 70).
Problems like educational stress, failure at studies or lagging behind the peers, poor examination results, failure at extracurricular activities (which hold importance for oneself), discouragement by teachers or any other individual regarding studies, uncomfortable personal experiences including break ups between friends, being bullied by others, low self esteem and any type of abuse, physical or otherwise, may have an extremely negative impact on a young person’s mind. Quite a few people are of the view that drugs are the best way to escape from the problems of life.
The same holds true for juveniles who are unable to cope with the ever increasing problems of adolescence and early adulthood. Lack of expected help and proper attention from parents at home and absence of social support especially in solving problems at such a level also act as push factors for juveniles to try a novel method (in most cases the use of drugs) for solving the problems in their troubled lives. Youths with a history of drug use in their family, especially by their parents, are more susceptible.
Peer group pressure, social norms, curiosity, at times even poverty and availability of certain drugs in an area are also a few more reasons why young teens choose to use drugs. MOST COMMONLY ABUSED DRUGS BY JUVENILES The American youth has a huge range of drugs to choose from once they have decided to use them. It should be clear that all types of drugs are illegal for youth may they be prescription drugs being used other than the doctor’s prescription or other illicit drugs including heroin etc.
Since 1992, the high rate of illicit drug use among youth has been steadily increasing. According to the Monitoring the Future study (previously called the High School Senior Survey), which has measured the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs by the Nation’s youth since 1975, drug use among 12th graders peaked in 1981, with slightly more than 65 percent of seniors having reported past use of an illicit drug (cited in Dickinson ; Crowe, 1997). Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug and it is believed that most drug abusers commenced drug use with alcohol.
“More than 70% of high school seniors have reported using alcohol in the past year, and 78% say they have tried it at sometime during their life time”. (Siegel ; Welsh. 2004. p. 234). Main reasons for using alcohol are its reported ability of relieving one’s tension and mood elevation. However, these are merely initially experienced feelings whereas in the long run alcohol depresses the Central Nervous System and causes hangovers. Even though cigarettes are banned for minors in many countries including USA, they remain to be a favorite among school students and are often believed to be status symbol as well.
Tobacco, nicotine and tar among other chemicals in cigarette are the most dangerous ones. Other abused drugs range from the marijuana and hashish, including one of the most harmful and addiction prone drug, heroin. Central Nervous System (CNS) depressants also called sedatives or tranquilizers (which induce sleep), CNS stimulants (which initially activate or heighten the senses), hallucinogens and steroids, are the drugs which different juveniles use according to availability and their personal desires. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DRUG USE AND DELINQUENCY
It is not necessary for a drug user or abuser to be involved in criminal activity but it is extremely likely and researches and surveys conducted in the past have proven a connection between drug use and delinquent behavior. “Because substance abuse and delinquency are inextricably linked, arrest, adjudication, and intervention by the juvenile justice system are eventual consequences for many young people engaged in such behavior”. (Cited in Dickinson ; Crowe, 1997). When teens fall for drugs, delinquency is almost inevitable.
Their involvement in drugs appears to be a virtual passport for their entry into the world of crime. There is sufficient medical evidence to support the belief that drugs can cause delinquent behavior. Drugs, especially psychoactive drugs, cause impaired physical and mental activities and lower inhibitions. Young drug-intoxicated individuals are very likely to commit crimes unconsciously and sometimes even consciously. “Survey of Youth in Custody, 1987, found that more than 39 percent of youth under age 18 were under the influence of drugs at the time of their current offense. ”(Cited in Dickinson ; Crowe, 1997).
It is also true that criminal activity may cause juveniles to start using drugs. The real cause of concern is the rising crime rate and drug usage rate among increasingly younger individuals. Young people are using mood-altering substances at increasingly younger ages. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse shows an overall decline in the average age of first use of alcohol, from 17. 2 years in 1975 to 15. 9 years in 1993; daily cigarette use, from 18. 6 years in 1975 to 16. 8 years in 1994; and, especially, marijuana use, from 18. 9 years in 1975 to 16. 3 years in 1994 (cited in Dickinson ; Crowe, 1997)
Drug using juveniles usually commit crimes for money to meet their drug needs and once they become a part of gangs, they may get involved in drug trafficking, selling, prostitution, and even cases of murder. “One study conducted in Miami found that 573 narcotics users annually committed 200 000 crimes to obtain cash. ” (Siegel ; Welsh, 2004, p. 248). DEALING WITH DRUGS AND JUVENILE DELINQUENCY Drug testing is not only a means of identifying individuals using drugs but it is also a first step towards stopping it. When young people know that they could be tested for drugs usage, the cases of drug use would hopefully reduce.
The fear of detention on getting caught would further deter juveniles from trying the forbidden. However, no step can be taken to “punish” these individuals because they are under age and hence every step is taken to rehabilitate these juvenile delinquents rather than punishing them. The establishment of the juvenile justice system by the government of United States of America is a great step towards improvement. The youths are kept in specific juvenile delinquent rehabilitation centers under the supervision of juvenile justice agencies.
Preventing juvenile offense before it takes place is difficult but has long term benefits. Creating awareness among the youths about drugs, their harmful effects and delinquency right from the beginning of their schooling may prove to be a promising solution. A stronger, balanced community with a strong social support system can help a lot. Engaging youths in fruitful after-school activities, like community service and vocational training, will help turn their attention towards useful things producing more responsible and reasonable citizens. Nevertheless, the best possible way still remains to be parental education.
Absence of feelings of helplessness and of being neglected among juveniles could actually do wonders. When parental support is felt, youths have more positive attitude towards life. CONCLUSION Drug use and juvenile delinquency are very serious issues any society has to face and they are the greatest challenges any government could have. The future of a country and a society lies in the hands of the younger generation. If the youth of a country are drug and crime ridden then how would make their country progress and develop. First of all the concerned parents should address the issue seriously.
Feeding and clothing children is just not enough, they should make sure their unflinching support, help and care is always felt by their children. As for the concerned governments, every possible measure should be taken to eliminate vices like drug use and delinquency from their society. Setting up more rehabilitation centers, better support providing institutions, better youth opportunities could discourage them from involving themselves in drugs and criminal activity. Saving their nations future is their responsibility and they should fulfill it diligently.
References Dickinson, Tanya ; Crowe, Anne. (1997 December). Capacity Building for Juvenile Substance Abuse Treatment: Juvenile Delinquency and Substance Abuse. Retrieved April 2, 2008 from Juvenile Justice Bulletin. ;http://www. ncjrs. gov/html/ojjdp/jjbul9712-1/jjbdec97. html#contents; ;http://www. ncjrs. gov/html/ojjdp/jjbul9712-1/substan. html; Elrod, Preston ; Scott, R. (1999). Juvenile Justice: A Social, Historical and Legal Perspective. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Siegel, Larry J ; Welsh, Brandon C. (2004). Juvenile Delinquency: The Core. Thomson Wadsworth.