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Drug Use and Delinquency


FREQUENTLY ABUSED DRUGS Marijuana and Hashish Cocaine Heroin Alcohol Other Drug Categories

DRUG USE TODAY The Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey The PRIDE Survey Are the Survey Results Accurate?

WHY DO YOUTHS TAKE DRUGS? Social Disorganization Peer Pressure Family Factors Genetic Factors Emotional Problems Problem Behavior Syndrome Rational Choice

PATHWAYS TO DRUG ABUSE Focus on Delinquency: Problem Behaviors and Substance Abuse Adolescents Who Distribute Small Amounts of Drugs Adolescents Who Frequently Sell Drugs Teenage Drug Dealers Who Commit Other Delinquent Acts Losers and Burnouts Persistent Offenders

DRUG USE AND DELINQUENCY Drugs and Chronic Offending Explaining Drug Use and Delinquency What Does This Mean to Me? Reducing Drug Activity

DRUG CONTROL STRATEGIES Law Enforcement Efforts Education Strategies Preventing and Treating Delinquency: Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) Community Strategies Treatment Strategies



After reading this chapter you should:

1. Know which are the drugs most frequently abused by American youth.

2. Understand the extent of the drug problem among American youth today.

3. Be able to discuss how teenage drug use in this country has changed over time.

4. Know the main explanations for why youths take drugs.

5. Recognize the different behavior patterns of drug-involved youths.

6. Understand the relationship between drug use and delinquency.

7. Be familiar with the major drug- control strategies.

8. Be able to argue the pros and cons of government using different drug-control strategies.


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Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

232 C H A P T E R 1 0

There is little question that adolescent substance abuse and its association with delinquency are vexing problems. Almost every town, village, and city in the United States has confronted some type of teenage substance abuse problem. Nor is the United States alone in experiencing this. In the United Kingdom, one out of eight high school students reports having used illicit drugs (other than marijuana) at least once, and in Denmark 85 percent of high school students report using alcohol in the past month. South Africa reports an increase in teen cocaine and heroin abuse, and Thailand has a serious heroin and methamphetamine problem.1

Self-report surveys indicate that more than half of high school seniors have tried drugs and almost 80 percent have used alcohol.2 Adolescents at high risk for drug abuse often come from the most impoverished communities and experience a multitude of problems, including school failure and family conflict.3 Equally troubling is the associa- tion between drug use and crime.4 Research indicates that 10 percent of all juvenile male arrestees in some cities test positive for cocaine.5 Self-report surveys show that drug abusers are more likely to become delinquents than are nonabusers.6 The pattern of drug use and crime makes teenage substance abuse a key national concern.

FREQUENTLY ABUSED DRUGS A wide variety of substances referred to as drugs are used by teenagers. Some are addicting, others not. Some create hallucinations, others cause a depressed stupor, and a few give an immediate uplift. In this section we will identify the most widely used substances and discuss their effects. All of these drugs can be abused, and be- cause of the danger they present, many have been banned from private use. Others are available legally only with a physician’s supervision, and a few are available to adults but prohibited for children.

Marijuana and Hashish Commonly called “pot” or “grass,” marijuana is produced from the leaves of Cannabis sativa. Hashish (hash) is a concentrated form of cannabis made from unadulterated

Surveys indicate that more than half of all

high school–age kids have used drugs.Al-

though this is a troubling statistic, these

surveys also show that teen drug use is

down from five and ten years ago. Many

programs have been implemented over

the years to help children and teens avoid

taking drugs, such as educating them

about the dangers of drug use and devel-

oping skills to “Just Say No.” Some of

these programs take place in the school

and the community, and some involve po-

lice and other juvenile justice agencies.

But what role can families play in helping

to prevent teen drug use? A study by the

Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

suggests that parents can play an impor-

tant role. The study found that teens

whose parents set down rules about what

they can watch and listen to, care about

how they are doing at school, and gener-

ally take an active interest in their lives

are the least likely group to use drugs. In

contrast, teens with hands-off parents

were found to be more likely to try drugs.





The Lindesmith Center is one of the leading independent drug policy institutes in the United States. View its Web site by clicking on Web Links under the Chapter Resources at siegel_ jdcore2e.h

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substance abuse Using drugs or alcohol in such a way as to cause physical harm to oneself.

hashish A concentrated form of cannabis made from unadulterated resin from the female cannabis plant.

Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

resin from the female plant. The main active ingredient in both marijuana and hashish is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a mild hallucinogen. Marijuana is the drug most commonly used by teenagers.

Smoking large amounts of pot or hash can cause dis- tortions in auditory and visual perception, even produc- ing hallucinatory effects. Small doses produce an early excitement (“high”) that gives way to drowsiness. Pot use is also related to decreased activity, overestimation of time and space, and increased food consumption. When the user is alone, marijuana produces a dreamy state. In a group, users become giddy and lose perspective.

Marijuana is not physically addicting, but its long-term effects have been the subject of much debate. During the 1970s, it was reported that smoking pot caused a variety of physical and mental problems, including brain damage and mental illness. Although the dangers of pot and hash may have been overstated, use of these drugs does present some health risks, including an increased risk of lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and other diseases. Prospective parents should avoid smoking marijuana because it lowers sperm counts in male users and females experience disrupted ovulation and a greater chance of miscarriage.7

Cocaine Cocaine is an alkaloid derivative of the coca plant. When first isolated in 1860, it was considered a medicinal break- through that could relieve fatigue, depression, and other symptoms, and it quickly became a staple of patent medi- cines. When its addictive qualities and dangerous side effects became apparent, its use was controlled by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Cocaine is the most powerful natural stimulant. Its use produces euphoria, rest- lessness, and excitement. Overdoses can cause delirium, violent manic behavior, and possible respiratory failure. The drug can be sniffed, or “snorted,” into the nostrils, or it can be injected. The immediate feeling of euphoria, or “rush,” is short-lived, and heavy users may snort coke as often as every ten minutes. Another dangerous practice is “speedballing”—injecting a mixture of cocaine and heroin.

Crack is processed street cocaine. Its manufacture involves using ammonia or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to remove the hydrochlorides and create a crys- talline form of cocaine that can be smoked. In fact, crack gets its name from the fact that the sodium bicarbonate often emits a crackling sound when the substance is smoked. Also referred to as “rock,”“gravel,” and “roxanne,” crack gained popularity in the mid-1980s. It is relatively inexpensive, can provide a powerful high, and is highly addictive psychologically.

Heroin Narcotic drugs have the ability to produce insensibility to pain and to free the mind of anxiety and emotion. Users experience relief from fear and apprehension, release of tension, and elevation of spirits. This short period of euphoria is followed by a period of apathy, during which users become drowsy and may nod off. Heroin, the most commonly used narcotic in the United States, is produced from opium, a drug derived from the opium poppy flower. Dealers cut the drug with neutral substances (sugar or lactose), and street heroin is often only 1 to 4 percent pure.

D R U G U S E A N D D E L I N Q U E N C Y 233

Marijuana is the drug most commonly used by teenagers. Surveys suggest that marijuana use among high school students is much lower today than it was during its peak in the mid-1990s.

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marijuana The dried leaves of the cannabis plant.

cocaine A powerful natural stimulant derived from the coca plant.

crack A highly addictive crystalline form of cocaine containing remnants of hydrochloride and sodium bicar- bonate; it makes a crackling sound when smoked.

Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

Heroin is probably the most dangerous commonly abused drug. Users rapidly build up a tolerance for it, fueling the need for increased doses to obtain the desired effect. At first heroin is usually sniffed or snorted; as tolerance builds, it is “skin popped” (shot into skin, but not into a vein); and finally it is injected into a vein, or “mainlined.”8 Through this progressive use, the user becomes an addict—a person with an overpowering physical and psychological need to continue taking a particu- lar substance by any means possible. If addicts cannot get enough heroin to satisfy their habit, they will suffer withdrawal symptoms, which include irritability, depres- sion, extreme nervousness, and nausea.

Alcohol Alcohol remains the drug of choice for most teenagers. More than 70 percent of high school seniors reported using alcohol in the past year, and 78 percent say they have tried it at some time during their lifetime; by the twelfth grade just under two-thirds (62 percent) of American youth report that they have “been drunk.”9 More than twenty million Americans are estimated to be problem drinkers, and at least half of these are alcoholics.

Alcohol may be a factor in nearly half of all murders, suicides, and accidental deaths.10 Alcohol-related deaths number one hundred thousand a year, far more than all other illegal drugs combined. Just over 1.4 million drivers are arrested each year for driving under the influence (including 13,400 teen drivers), and around 1.2 million more are arrested for other alcohol-related violations.11 The economic cost is stagger- ing. An estimated $185 billion is lost each year, including $36 billion from premature deaths, $88 billion in reduced work effort, and $19 billion arising from short- and long-term medical problems.12

Considering these problems, why do so many youths drink to excess? Youths who use alcohol report that it reduces tension, enhances pleasure, improves social skills, and transforms experiences for the better.13 Although these reactions may follow the limited use of alcohol, alcohol in higher doses acts as a depressant. Long- term use has been linked with depression and physical ailments ranging from heart disease to cirrhosis of the liver. Many teens also think drinking stirs their romantic urges, but scientific evidence indicates that alcohol decreases sexual response.14

Other Drug Categories Other drug categories include anesthetic drugs, inhalants, sedatives and barbiturates, tranquilizers, hallucinogens, stimulants, steroids, designer drugs, and cigarettes.

Anesthetic Drugs Anesthetic drugs are central nervous system (CNS) de- pressants. Local anesthetics block nervous system transmissions; general anesthetics act on the brain to produce loss of sensation, stupor, or unconsciousness. The most widely abused anesthetic drug is phencyclidine (PCP), known as “angel dust.” Angel dust can be sprayed on marijuana or other leaves and smoked, drunk, or injected. Originally developed as an animal tranquilizer, PCP creates hallucinations and a spaced-out feeling that causes heavy users to engage in violent acts. The effects of PCP can last up to two days, and the danger of overdose is high.

Inhalants Some youths inhale vapors from lighter fluid, paint thinner, cleaning fluid, or model airplane glue to reach a drowsy, dizzy state that is sometimes accom- panied by hallucinations. Inhalants produce a short-term euphoria followed by a period of disorientation, slurred speech, and drowsiness. Amyl nitrite (“poppers”) is a commonly used volatile liquid packaged in capsule form that is inhaled when the capsule is broken open.

Sedatives and Barbiturates Sedatives, the most commonly used drugs of the barbiturate family, depress the central nervous system into a sleeplike condition.

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What kind of people become addicts? View the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy Web site by clicking on Web Links under the Chapter Resources at siegel_

tp :

heroin A narcotic made from opium and then cut with sugar or some other neutral substance until it is only 1 to 4 percent pure.

addict A person with an overpowering physical or psychological need to continue taking a particular sub- stance or drug.

alcohol Fermented or distilled liquids con- taining ethanol, an intoxicating substance.

anesthetic drugs Nervous system depressants.

inhalants Volatile liquids that give off a vapor, which is inhaled, produc- ing short-term excitement and euphoria followed by a period of disorientation.

sedatives Drugs of the barbiturate family that depress the central nervous system into a sleeplike condition.

Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

On the illegal market sedatives are called “goofballs” or “downers” and are often known by the color of the capsules: “reds” (Seconal), “blue devils” (Amytal), and “rainbows” (Tuinal).

Sedatives can be prescribed by doctors as sleeping pills. Illegal users employ them to create relaxed, sociable feelings; overdoses can cause irritability, repellent behavior, and unconsciousness. Barbiturates are the major cause of drug-overdose deaths.

Tranquilizers Tranquilizers reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Legally prescribed tranquilizers, such as Ampazine, Thorazine, Pacatal, and Sparine, were originally designed to control the behavior of people suffering from psychoses, ag- gressiveness, and agitation. Less powerful tranquilizers, such as Valium, Librium, Miltown, and Equanil, are used to combat anxiety, tension, fast heart rate, and headaches. The use of illegally obtained tranquilizers can lead to addiction, and withdrawal can be painful and hazardous.

Hallucinogens Hallucinogens, either natural or synthetic, produce vivid dis- tortions of the senses without greatly disturbing the viewer’s consciousness. Some produce hallucinations, and others cause psychotic behavior in otherwise normal people.

One common hallucinogen is mescaline, named after the Mescalero Apaches, who first discovered its potent effect. Mescaline occurs naturally in the peyote, a small cactus that grows in Mexico and the southwestern United States. After initial discomfort, mescaline produces vivid hallucinations and out-of-body sensations.

A second group of hallucinogens are synthetic alkaloid compounds, such as psilocybin. These can be transformed into lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly called LSD. This powerful substance stimulates cerebral sensory centers to produce visual hallucinations, intensify hearing, and increase sensitivity. Users often report a scrambling of sensations; they may “hear colors” and “smell music.” Users also report feeling euphoric and mentally superior, although to an observer they appear disori- ented. Anxiety and panic may occur, and overdoses can produce psychotic episodes, flashbacks, and even death.

Stimulants Stimulants (“uppers,”“speed,”“pep pills,”“crystal”) are synthetic drugs that stimulate action in the central nervous system. They increase blood pres- sure, breathing rate, and bodily activity, and elevate mood. Commonly used stimu- lants include Benzedrine (“bennies”), Dexedrine (“dex”), Dexamyl, Bephetamine (“whites”), and Methedrine (“meth,”“speed,”“crystal meth”).

Methedrine is probably the most widely used and most dangerous ampheta- mine. Some people swallow it; heavy users inject it. Long-term heavy use can result in exhaustion, anxiety, prolonged depression, and hallucinations. A new form of methamphetamine is a crystallized substance with the street name of “ice” or “crys- tal.” Smoking this crystal causes weight loss, kidney damage, heart and respiratory problems, and paranoia.15

Steroids Teenagers use highly dangerous anabolic steroids to gain muscle bulk and strength.16 Black market sales of these drugs approach $1 billion annually. Al- though not physically addicting, steroids can become a kind of obsession among teens who desire athletic success. Long-term users may spend up to $400 a week on steroids and may support their habit by dealing the drug.

Steroids are dangerous because of the health problems associated with their long-term use: liver ailments, tumors, kidney problems, sexual dysfunction, hyper- tension, and mental problems such as depression. Steroid use runs in cycles, and other drugs—Clomid, Teslac, and Halotestin, for example—that carry their own dangerous side effects are often used to curb the need for high dosages of steroids. Finally, steroid users often share needles, which puts them at high risk for contract- ing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

D R U G U S E A N D D E L I N Q U E N C Y 235

tranquilizers Drugs that reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

hallucinogens Natural or synthetic substances that produce vivid distortions of the senses without greatly disturb- ing consciousness.

stimulants Synthetic substances that produce an intense physical reaction by stimulating the central nervous system.

anabolic steroids Drugs used by athletes and body- builders to gain muscle bulk and strength.

Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

Designer Drugs Designer drugs are lab-created synthetics that are designed at least temporarily to get around existing drug laws. The most widely used designer drug is Ecstasy, which is actually derived from speed and methamphetamine. After being swallowed, snorted, injected, or smoked, it acts simultaneously as a stimulant and a hallucinogen, producing mood swings, disturbing sleeping and eating habits, altering thinking processes, creating aggressive behavior, interfering with sexual function, and affecting sensitivity to pain. The drug can also increase blood pressure and heart rate. Teenage users taking Ecstasy at raves have died from heat stroke be- cause the drug can cause dehydration.

Cigarettes Approximately twenty-five countries have established laws to pro- hibit the sale of cigarettes to minors. The reality, however, is that in many countries children and adolescents have easy access to tobacco products.17 In the United States, the Synar Amendment, enacted in 1992, requires states to enact and enforce laws restricting the sale of tobacco products to youths under the age of eighteen. States are required to reduce rates of illegal sales to minors to no more than 20 percent within several years. The FDA rules require age verification for anyone under the age of twenty-seven who is purchasing tobacco products. The FDA has also banned vending machines and self-service displays except in adult-only facilities. Despite all of these measures, almost six out of ten high school seniors in America—57 percent of them—report having smoked cigarettes over their lifetime. However, in recent years cigarette use by high school students has been on the decline.18

DRUG USE TODAY Surveys show that alcohol continues to be the most widely used drug and that syn- thetic drugs such as Ecstasy have become more popular. Some western states report that methamphetamine (“speed,”“crank”) use is increasing and that its low cost and high potency has encouraged manufacturers (“cookers”) to increase production. The use of other synthetics, including PCP and LSD, is focused in particular areas of the country. Synthetics are popular because labs can easily be hidden in rural areas, and traffickers do not have to worry about border searches or payoffs to foreign growers or middlemen. Users like synthetics because they are cheap and produce a powerful, long-lasting high that can be greater than that provided by more expensive natural products such as cocaine.

Crack cocaine use has been in decline in recent years. Heavy criminal penalties, tight enforcement, and social disapproval have helped to lower crack use.19 Although it was feared that abusers would turn to heroin as a replacement, there has been little indication of a new heroin epidemic. Heroin use has stabilized in most of the coun- try, although there are still hundreds of thousands of regular users in large cities.20

Arrest data show that the most frequent heroin users are older offenders who started their habit decades ago. There is reason to believe heroin use is in decline among adolescents, possibly because it has acquired an extremely negative street image. Most youths know that heroin is addictive and destructive to health, and that needle sharing leads to HIV. Research conducted in New York City shows that most youths avoid heroin, shun users and dealers, and wish to avoid becom- ing addicts.21

Despite concern over these “hard drugs,” the most persistent teenage substance- abuse problem is alcohol. Teenage alcoholism is sometimes considered less serious than other types of substance abuse, but it actually produces far more problems. Teenage alcohol abusers suffer depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of mental distress. Also, it is well established that alcoholism runs in families; today’s teenage abusers may become the parents of the next generation of teenage alcoholics.22

What do national surveys tell us about the extent of drug use and the recent trends in teen usage?

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designer drugs Lab-made drugs designed to avoid existing drug laws.

Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

The Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey One of the most important and influential surveys of teen substance abuse is the annual Monitoring the Future survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. In all, about forty-five thousand students located in 433 secondary schools participate in the study.

The most recent MTF survey indicates that, with a few exceptions, drug use among American adolescents held steady in 2002, but declined from the recent peak levels reached in 1996 and 1997. As Figure 10.1 shows, drug use peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s and then began a decade-long decline until showing an uptick in the mid- 1990s; usage for most drugs has been stable or in decline since then. Especially encour- aging has been a significant drop in the use of crack cocaine among younger kids. As noted earlier, there has also been a continuing decline in cigarette smoking, as well as the use of smokeless tobacco products. More troubling is the use of Ecstasy, which, because of its popularity at dance clubs and raves, rose among older teens (tenth- and twelfth-graders) for much of the late 1990s and up to 2001, but has since dropped sharply. In 2002, just under 5 percent of tenth-graders reported some use of Ecstasy during the previous twelve months (down from 6.2 percent in 2001); slightly over 7 percent of the twelfth-graders also reported some use (down from 9.2 percent in 2001). On the other hand, the use of anabolic steroids by males in their early to mid- teens has increased (4 percent of twelfth-grade boys now take steroids), possibly be- cause of the reported use of similar substances by respected athletes. Heroin use has dropped sharply in the last couple of years (1 percent of twelfth-grade boys are users) after the rates had roughly doubled between 1991 and 1995, when noninjectable forms of heroin use became popular. It is possible that widely publicized overdose deaths of musicians and celebrities may have helped stabilize heroin abuse. Alcohol use among teens has been fairly stable over the past several years. Nonetheless, nearly one-fifth of eighth-graders and almost half of twelfth-graders use alcohol regularly.

The PRIDE Survey A second source of information on teen drug and alcohol abuse is the National Par- ents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE) survey, which is also conducted

D R U G U S E A N D D E L I N Q U E N C Y 237

Teenage smoking rates are considerably lower today compared to years past, but millions of teens still smoke cigarettes. Here, police officer Jody Hayes looks on as twelve- year-old smoker Justin Hoover of Des Moines, Iowa, testifies on Capitol Hill before a Demo- cratic hearing on smoking. Hoover said he smoked his first cigarette at age six and by nine was stealing them from conve- nience stores.

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Juvenile Delinquency: The Core COPYRIGHT © 2005 Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc

annually.23 Typically, findings from the PRIDE survey correlate highly with the MTF drug survey. The most recent PRIDE survey (for the 2002–03 school year) indicates slight increases in drug activity over the previous school year, but substantial de- creases over the last five years. For example, about 24 percent of students in grades six to twelve claimed to have used drugs during the past year, down from 27 percent in the 1998–99 school year (Table 10.1). Cigarette smoking and alcohol use are also down from five years ago. The fact that two surveys generate roughly the same pat- tern in drug abuse helps bolster their validity and give support to a decline in teenage substance abuse.

Are the Survey Results Accurate? Student drug surveys must be interpreted with caution. First, it may be overly opti- mistic to expect that heavy users are going to cooperate with a drug-use survey, espe- cially one conducted by a government agency. Even if they were willing, these students are likely to be absent from school during testing periods. Also, drug abusers are more likely to be forgetful and to give inaccurate accounts of their substance abuse.

Another problem is the likelihood that the most drug-dependent portion of the adolescent population is omitted from the sample. In some cities, almost half of all youths arrested dropped out of school before the twelfth grade, and more than half of these arrestees are drug users (Figure 10.2).24 Juvenile detainees (those arrested and held in a lockup) test positively for cocaine at a rate many times higher than those reporting recent use in the MTF and PRIDE surveys.25 The inclusion of eighth-graders in the MTF sample is one way of getting around the dropout prob- lem. Nonetheless, high school surveys may be excluding some of the most drug- prone young people in the population.

Although these problems are serious, they are consistent over time and therefore do not hinder the measurement of change or trends in drug usage. That is, prior sur- veys also omitted dropouts and other high-risk individuals. However, since these problems are built into every wave of the survey, any change recorded in the annual

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