Conclusions and Recommendations
Because substance abuse and delinquency are inextricably interrelated, identifying substance-abusing youth in the juvenile justice system is an important first step for intervening in both their substance abuse and their delinquent behavior. Drug identification strategies, followed by effective interventions, help prevent further illicit drug use and delinquency. Drug testing can be a constructive means of helping youth overcome denial of their substance abuse. As a part of intervention, drug testing can be used to help youth achieve and maintain recovery and curtail other deviant behaviors. Over time, effective drug identification will help juvenile justice agencies achieve the goals of a balanced approach including community protection, youth accountability, and competency development.
Five sites engaged primarily in juvenile probation and three juvenile detention centers implemented the drug identification programs reported in this Summary. Each received assistance from the APPA or the ACA/IBH to establish a drug-testing and intervention program meeting standards based on national research on drug-testing programs. Across the eight demonstration sites, the percentage of positive drug test results obtained from youth ranged from 10 percent in one site to 37 percent in another, a finding that corresponds to other data that show a significant amount of illicit drug use among youth in the juvenile justice system. The most frequent positive results in all sites were for marijuana. In most of the sites, the next highest rate of positive results was for cocaine. However, in all but one site, the percentage of positive results for cocaine was dramatically lower than the percentage of positive results for marijuana. Two sites had several positive tests for PCP. Several sites also reported positive results for other, unspecified drugs. Across the eight sites, positive test results for opiates, barbiturates, amphetamines, and benzodiazepines were minimal. However, one detention site reported that although youth were admitting use of amphetamines at higher rates, cost factors prohibited routine testing for these drugs. These results point out that patterns of illicit drug use by youth may be quite diverse in different localities. Drug testing can help those who work with juveniles determine usage patterns.
Most programs found staff to be supportive of drug-testing programs, especially if they were involved in the initial planning of the programs. Problems related to youth cooperation with the programs also were reported to be minimal, and several examples of parental support for the programs were provided. By-and-large, community stakeholders encouraged and supported the programs; however, there were a few incidents of specific individuals or groups who created initial barriers.
A key ingredient of a drug identification program is the intervention that occurs after the determination of test results. Drug testing is a vital tool for case planning and ongoing monitoring of substance-abusing youth. Critical to intervention is the ability of juvenile justice practitioners to apply immediate rewards or consequences to substance-abusing youth and to find appropriate education and treatment programs in the community for them.
Following are several recommendations for effective drug identification programs distilled from the experiences of the APPA and ACA/IBH projects.