Crime Rate And Substance Abuse Among Juveniles

Essay, Research Paper When a juvenile is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, he may be more apt to perform certain activities that he would not necessarily do if he is not under the

Essay, Research Paper

When a juvenile is under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or both, he may be more apt to

perform certain activities that he would not necessarily do if he is not under the

influence, such as comit a crime. While under the influence, a juvenile may comit a

crime because of the state of mind that he is in; he cannot make rational decisions if he

is not in a stable mindset. Also, while that juvenile is in an altered state of mind, he may

feel as though he is on top of the world, that he is invincible, and that he can do anything.

Consequently, the aftermath can be severe. Furthermore, while under the influence of

drugs, alcohol, or even both, the risk for the occurence of a crime increases.

In order to see the connection between substance abuse and crime rate among

adolescents, some of the causes of the actual substance abuse must first be discussed.

One cause is the family situation. No family is perfect, nor does every family have good

dynamics. Some families are dysfunctional. Several factors play into what makes a

family dysfunctional: the amount of child supervision, or lack there of, abuse/violence,

the way that the parent(s)/care giver(s) behave, and the overall environment of the home.

Studies have shown the relationship between the family situation and juvenile

delinquincy: “Over the last few years many studies have looked at the issue of family

dynamics as it relates to violent behavior and the increased rates of delinquincy of

children raised in certain types of dysfunctional families”(“Risk Factors” par 22). When

a child lives in a family that is not exactly stable, he does not receive the proper care, and

also, he does not learn the appropriate social skills that follow the norms of society. By

watching those who take care of the child, the child will probably behave as his care

givers behave. In effect, if the care givers are violent toward each other or the child, the

child may grow up to be a violent person. The same learned situation goes toward drug

use, as well: if the care givers are involved with drugs, then the child may begin abusing

drugs. Also, the lack of family supervision may also cause the child to use drugs:

Use of alcohol and other drugs is associated with families who have poor

supervision, rules and discipline, do not disapprove of teens smoking and

drinking, and do not maintain close relationships and trust between parents

and youth(“Teen Substance Abuse” par 1).

In effect, the child’s family situation is a big influence on his behavior and the choices

that he makes, whether those choices are legal or illegal.

Another factor contributing to substance abuse can be linked to the community or

neighborhood that the child lives in. A child who does not live in the best section of his

community may very well see negative activities and may be influenced by those people

who are in that neighborhood. Often times, in poor neighborhoods, a lot of gang

formation and crime occurs. Gangs are linked to drug use. Along with abusing drugs,

gangs also make profits off of drugs:

Street gangs spring up nearly overnight looking for the enormous profits drugs

can bring. Organized crime is also involved in setting up franchises that would

make McDonald’s envous. But these are not hamburgers. In the world of drugs,

homicidally vicious gangs compete for market share with murderous results

(Anderson par 5).

There are many gangs, especially in poor neighborhoods. When the child is exposed to

these drug infested gangs, he may very well become involved with drugs in a gang,

because to him that is a way of life. Also, in poor communities, drugs are more easily

accessible and, in a way, those poor neighborhoods do not view drugs as negatively as

other communities and neighborhoods; drugs are a source of money and, again, drugs

become a way of life. Consequently, when a child is exposed to such situations, he

follows the others in his community by becoming involved in the drug scene.

A third cause for a child to abuse drugs is for psychological reasons. Juveniles

are naturally emotional, some more than others. Juveniles want to fit in, as well as be

content. Sometimes, resorting to drugs is a way for the child to feel better. Also, some

children use drugs to cover up for how they are truly feeling deep down inside. A lot of

juveniles, especially teens, suffer from clinical depression, bipolar disorder(also known

as manic depression), and other psychiatric disorders. By using drugs, those suffering

juveniles are masking their feelings, which can be self-destructing and may even lead to

suicide in extreme cases. According to a press release,

Adolescents whose self-identified serious problems were more emotional

than behavioral in nature were nearly four times as likely to be dependant

on alcohol or illicit drugs than other adolescents. They were four times as

likely to have used marijuana in the past month, and nearly seven times more

likely to have reported use of other illicit drugs in the past month. They were

nearly three times as likely to have used alcohol in the past month; and three

times a likely to have smoked cigarettes in the past month. They were nearly

nine times as likely to need treatment for drug abuse(“Serious Emotional,

Behavioral Problems”.. par 5).

Some juveniles who have difficulty in life may feel that drug use is the only way to help

solve their problems. These juveniles grow a psychological dependance to the drugs:

Psychological theorists argue that psychological dependance, caused by the

pleasent effects produced by the drug, is the strongest motivator for continued

substance abuse. The individual chooses to use the drug for these effects.

Another term for psychological dependance is habituation. Dependence

sets in when the person cannot cope with the daily stresses without being

under the influence of a drug….The psychologically dependant individual

essentially uses drugs to cope with life stresses(“Risk Factors” par 79).

In effect, these juveniles become psychologically dependant on drugs.

Although, there are several negative factors which contribute a juvenile to begin

to have a substance abuse problem in the first place, the end results are also negative,

and most often lead to crime. Whether it be in or out of a gang, a lot of juvenile crime

can be traced back to substance abuse. Studies have shown that substance abuse is linked

to juvenile delinquincy: “A study released today found that adolescents inclined toward

substance abuse admitted to delinquent behaviors such as stealing, cutting classes or

skipping school, and hanging around others who get into trouble”(“Serious Emotional,

Behavioral Problems…” par 2). Once a juvenile has a substance abuse problem, all he

seems to care about are the drugs that he is on, how he feels, and he does not stop and

think about anything else, such as morals and values; he becomes careless. This careless

juvenile then comits crimes with out even thinking about the consequences. When a

juvenile is under the influence, he cannot properly think and he cannot come to rational

decision making. As a result, the juvenile comits more crimes that he most likely would

not do if he were not under the influence. These irrational decisions can be deadly:

“Five Dodge City, Kansas teenagers, high on marijuana, killed a stranger for no obvious

reason. Three West Palm Beach, Florida teenagers mixed beer, rum, marijuana and

cocaine. They then kidnapped and set ablaze a tourist from Brooklyn”(Anderson, par 2).

If those teenagers were not under the influence, those tragic crimes probably

wouldnot have occured. There are also several statistics from the article, “Risk

Factors”, that show that being under the influence effects crime rate among


1 in 3 juvenile detainees were under the influence of drugs at the time of their


1/3 of juveniles entering detention centers test positive for at least one drug.

Among juveniles not attending school, 3% to 46% tested positive for cocaine.

The rates of marijuana use among those attending school approached the level of those

not attending school(pars 73-77).

In effect, when a juvenile is involved with delinquincy, he is most likely to be under the


Along with commiting a crime while under the influence, comes the fact that just

getting some drugs to feed the drug addiction results in crime, as well. First of all,

involevement with drugs is a crime in itself. Also, getting the drugs may involve gangs,

which results in violence most of the time. When a juvenile “needs” more drugs to feed

his addiction, he may act out violently because his drug cravings are so strong. Another

factor that results in violence is the fact that there probably may be violence to get the

drugs, such as breaking and entering to either steal drugs or steal money and also there

may be stabbings and shootings. Furthermore, many juveniles would do anything to get

money to buy their drugs: “When an adolescent gets addicted to crack-cocaine, heroin, or

any other addictive drug, the need for money may cause the individual to take excessive

risks, with such behaviors as prostitution and theft”(“Risk Factors” par 80). That quote

shows that juveniles will go through extreme measures to get money for their drugs.

Aside from risky behavior to get money for drugs, a juvenile may get into trouble with

substance abuse through gang involvement. In gangs, not only do the members abuse

drugs, but there is also a lot of drug dealing. Drug dealing is not only illegal, but violent

as well. Drug involvement with gangs is where the stabbings and shootings are most

likely to occur. In Anderson’s article, he points out that:

The Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education(PRIDE) reports that children

who abuse illicit drugs are significantly more likely to carry a gun to school,

take part in gang activities, think of suicide, threaten harm to others, and get

in trouble with the police than children who abstain(par 6).

Substance abuse and the involvement of drugs causes juveniles to take part in such

dangerous actions and illegal operations as shootings, gang related activity, as well as

personal threats.

With all the negative effects of juvenile substance abuse and delinquency,

organizations and facilities have been established to help prevent such crime and abuse,

as well as those to help the juveniles who are already in trouble. Rehabilitation centers,

detention centers, and such have been developed to help these needy juvenile delinquints.

There are many ways to help and to help prevent occurances of delinquency and

substance abuse. Some ways to prevent such occurances are:

Community response: parents provide good role models by avoiding

drinking and smoking around children; effective education about risks

of substance use; peer education and mentoring programs in schools and

community centers. Public-policy response: better enforcement of laws

prohibiting teen use of alcohol and tobacco; expanded treatment for users;

public-education campaigns to encourage effective parental responses;

investment in programs to increase youth involvement in positive school

and community activities(“Teen Substance Abuse” par 2).

By using some or all of the above methods for preventing and helping substance abuse

and juvenile crime, there would be a decrease of such cases and many juveniles would be

able to be helped. As a result, adolescents would not be as likely to turn to drugs in the

first place, and in effect, there would be a decrease in juvenile crime.

The connection between substance abuse and juvenile crime rate is strong. Many

crimes commited by juveniles can be traced back to substance abuse. When a juvenile is

under the influence, he is more likely to comit a crime because of irrational thinking.

Also, the crime rate is increased for these young addicts because of their “need” for

drugs, as well. With prevention, rehabillitation facilities, and stronger laws, a lot of

juvenile crime could possibly be diminishedm and the safety of juveniles will also be



Anderson, Kerby. “Probe Ministries: Teen Drug Abuse.” 1998.


“Alcohol: The Number One Drug Problem Among Teens.” 1999.

“Dealing with Causes of Juvenile Crime.” October 1, 1998. .

“Dole Addresses Drugs, Juvenile Crime.” July 8, 1996. .