Sample Essay on Substance Abuse and Delinquency


Though the interconnection between delinquency and substance abuse in adolescence is well recorded, significantly less is known about substance-use initiation in early years for juvenile delinquent populaces. Many males and females use at least one substance (except cigarettes) like alcohol, marijuana, or inhalants by age 13. Alcohol use allegedly occurs by age 10 for 17% of the youth. For a large portion, early initiation became regular early use. For instance, 32% of the males and 39% of the females stated consuming alcoholic drinks many times each month by age 13. The study offered clear proof that very early substance use is a challenge among youth who end up in the juvenile justice system. However, the environmental and social variables influencing very early substance initiation should be investigated.


Substance Abuse and Delinquency


Delinquency is a word that describes unlawful or antisocial conducts and undertakings. Delinquency and substance abuse are major challenges in the American society. Despite high determinations, the society has not been able to reduce them. However, individuals’ understanding of delinquency and substance abuse and ways of preventing and treating them has improved under the leadership of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Yablonsky, 2000). OJJDP helped in planning and executing action programs that offer the services needed to troubled youth. Additionally, OJJDP has been in the frontline of backing fundamental, long-term research that offers firm experiential data required to establish efficient action programs. Studies show that several variables relate with delinquency and various factors tend to increase the danger of later delinquent behavior. This paper examines juvenile delinquency and substance abuse, the risk factors, consequences, and intervention programs.

Juvenile Delinquency and Substance Abuse

Delinquent behavior comprises drug use, underage drinking, violence, and sex and property offenses. Young individuals start experimenting with drugs, new social groups, music, and their sexuality from the age of 14. Most of them discover new ideas, have difficult times with their parents and authority agencies and may start acting out. In most cases, this is a perfectly harmless and a vital phase in growing up. However, some start abusing their bodies with alcohol and drugs and the outcomes are very dangerous (Armstrong, & Costello, 2002).

Juvenile alcohol consumption is a widespread activity that is regarded delinquent. Young individuals who are involved in drinking before lawful age put their lives at risk. They can be accused of a criminal act in nations like Australia and the United Kingdom. Moreover, they put themselves at a risk of being the victim of abuse, sexual assault or engaging in an offense. Underage drinking can also have a negative impact on an individual’s health, which is particularly sensitive during certain stages of development. Young individuals who often drink excessively can harms their brains and other organs, which results in long-term health complications (Armstrong, & Costello, 2002).

Excessive dangerous drinking and substance abuse can also result in accidents that have fatal consequences. Other young persons are arrested for stealing cars when they have no licenses and drunk. The danger of being involved in a traffic accident is considerably higher when an individual is intoxicated.

The use of drugs during adolescence can lead to physical and social difficulties that can persist. As a young individual go through a distinctive phase of change, engaging in drugs and drug culture can alter the body chemistry, damage sensitive brain cells, and lead to the growth of mental health complications like anxiety and depression. In addition, since several young individuals do not possess similar thought processes as older adults, they experiment in harmful and risky ways and engage in antisocial activities. They also practice unprotected sex and become crime victims. It is clear that engaging in a criminal behavior can have long lasting effects on individuals’ life as well limiting their choices for employment and travel (Yablonsky, 2000).

People who are delinquent usually express antisocial ideas, engage in dangerous, destructive, and wrong activities, and are usually outspoken in refuting penalties related to their offenses. In many situations, there is a strong connection between delinquent behaviors and substance abuse. The majority of the delinquents search for activities that are considered unlawful. Moreover, substance abuse is illegal and socially intolerable in several circles. Delinquent individuals are not sober in most cases when they participate in unlawful behaviors. They also perform crimes like theft to get finances for purchasing substances. Substance abuse and engagement in delinquent behavior are interconnected. The higher the young ones engage in substance abuse, the more intense their engagement in crime (Armstrong, & Costello, 2002).

Several studies indicate that delinquent young people tend to drink a lot of alcohol and take more drugs. There is a significant link between confessed delinquency and alcohol and marijuana usage among the youth. In addition, juvenile offenders in detention centers have a high rate of alcohol and drug usage.

Social factors may lead to juvenile delinquent activities. For example, having an unemployed mother or one who is on an income is associated with a higher level of delinquent behavior. This is because of economic difficulties that the young ones may go through because of the mother being out of work. Contrary, living with both parents is associated with a lower level of delinquency since children receive adequate attention from parents who also guide them in avoiding criminal behaviors.

Information from security agencies indicates that alcohol is mostly associated with the commission of street crimes like disorderly behavior, offensive language, destruction of property and assault. Some youth also engage in house, hotel, and chemist breaks when sober in order to acquire alcohol and other drugs. Additionally peer pressure is the cause of many juvenile crimes. Many young people commit crimes when they gather in groups under the influence of alcohol and other drugs (Armstrong, & Costello, 2002).


Delinquency as a Cause

Studies show that delinquency and substance abuse have a great impact on several other variables. Certainly, they influence factors usually considered their causes. Every factor is affected by preceding levels of delinquency and substance abuse.

Sexual Activity and Delinquency

Developed sexual activity is strongly connected to both delinquency and substance abuse. Youths who engage in sexual activities or who become pregnant are much more likely to be engaged is some form of delinquency and use of alcohol or other drugs. Pregnant girls have reported higher rates of alcohol and drug use, which affect the health of their babies (Henggeler et al., 2002).

Families and Delinquency

Two kinds of family effects are examined the first one being family attachment, the emotional bond between a parent and a child. The second effect is about several forms of parenting behavior, particularly parental communication and supervision and conflicts between parents and their children. Poor family bonding is associated with delinquency and substance abuse. This is because youth who do not feel a strong emotional bond are more likely to commit street crimes and substance abuse. Furthermore, the absence of communication and supervision of youngsters is connected to both delinquency and substance abuse. Parental conflicts-discrepancy in punishment and evasion of discipline is associated with delinquency. Moreover, there is a link between childhood oppression and delinquent behavior. A higher risk for violent offending exists when a child is physically mistreated or neglected in early life. Such a child has higher chances of starting violent offending earlier compared to children who have not been abused or neglected (Henggeler et al., 2002).

Education and Delinquency

Two educational factors that are connected to delinquency and drug use                                   include the youth’s commitment to school and reading achievement. Devotion to school and delinquency and substance abuse conjointly strengthen each other. For example, children who are not highly devoted to school at Year 1 have higher rates of street crimes at Year 2. In addition, children who commit crimes at Year 1 are likely to have low levels of commitment to school at Year 2. Delinquency occurs mostly to African-American males than to white males after adjusting for the effect of performance level and retention.

Neighborhoods and Delinquency

Young people who live in underclass areas have higher rates of delinquency compared to those living in other regions. The social class of a region describes certain ethnic differences usually observed in delinquency. Studies indicate that African-Americans living in upper-class regions do not have higher rates of delinquency compared to whites living in upper-class regions, irrespective of the fact that upper-class neighborhood African-Americans still live in regions that compare poorly to the areas that the whites leave (Henggeler et al., 2002).

In addition, if only youth who are more closely supervised by their parent and involved with their families are considered, those from underclass neighborhoods are more delinquent than the ones from upper-class neighborhood. Living in underclass areas increases the chances of delinquency.


Peers and Delinquency

Two different impacts explain the function of peer influences on delinquency and substance abuse: the impact of relating with peers who are delinquent and use drugs and secondly, the impact of gang membership. Relating with peers who are delinquent, use drugs or both is connected strongly to delinquency and substance abuse. In addition, belonging to a delinquent gang is associated highly with delinquency and substance abuse. It is significant to note that 64% of gang members commit street offenses whereas 88% commit other serious crimes (Henggeler et al., 2002).

Gun Ownership and Delinquency

A clear relationship exists between possessing illicit guns and delinquency and substance abuse. The majority of illicit gun owners engage in street crimes, a few in gun crimes, and others abuse substances. However, males with legal firearms are not likely to engage in crime and substance abuse and are somewhat not delinquent compared to those who do not own guns.

Youth Employment and Delinquency

The American society usually perceives employment as a solution to social challenges like delinquency and substance abuse. Many individuals believe that work or employment programs protect people against delinquency and drugs. However, the relationship between unemployment and crime or substance abuse found among adults does not relate for adolescents. Investigations in the United States that have studied adolescent employment, delinquency, and substance abuse indicated that employed youth have the same or higher levels of delinquency and substance abuse than their nonworking counterparts, and therefore the programs have no effect on the delinquent behavior of the targeted youth. There is no proof that working is associated with lower levels of delinquency and drug use (Henggeler et al., 2002).

Consequences of Adolescent Substance Abuse

Continuous substance abuse among youth results in the several problems. Low grades, higher truancy levels, high possibility of dropping out, and other school-related challenges are linked to adolescent substance abuse. In addition, cognitive and behavioral challenges faced by alcohol and drug-using youth interfere with their academic performance and may interrupt their classmates’ learning (Nakawaki, & Crano, 2015).

Health-related effects of teenage substance abuse include accidental injuries, physical disability and diseases, and the effects of probable overdoses. They can also die because of suicide, homicide, accidents, and diseases.

Additionally, chances of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases is higher for substance-abusing youth if they involve in high-risk behaviors as well as the use of psychoactive substances, especially the ones that are injected or activities emerging from poor judgment and impulse control when facing the effects of mood-altering substances. Currently, the levels of AIDS diagnosis are very low among teenagers in comparison to other age groups. However, since the illness has a long latent phase before symptoms occur, several young adults with AIDS contract HIV as adolescents (Prinz & Kerns, 2003).

Increased economic and social costs can arise from financial expenses and emotional suffering associated with alcohol-and drug-related crimes, higher burdens for the support of adolescents, and young people who are not in a position to support themselves, and higher demands for health and other treatment services. Several aspects of family life are also endangered, leading to family dysfunction. In addition, alcohol-and drug-involved youth who exploit family finances and emotional resources affect parents and siblings (Nakawaki, & Crano, 2015).

Depression, developmental delay, boredom, withdrawal, and other psychological conditions are usually associated with substance abuse among adolescents. Users are likely to develop mental health challenges as well as suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, completed suicide, behavioral problems, and personality disorders than nonusers. For example, use of Marijuana, which is widespread among youth, interferes with the short-term memory, learning, and psychomotor skills. Furthermore, motivation and psychosexual/emotional growth might also be affected (Prinz & Kerns, 2003).

Finally, substance-abusing youths may also be isolated and stigmatized by their peers. These young individuals usually disengage from school and community activities, thus, depriving their peers and communities of their positive contributions (Nakawaki, & Crano, 2015).

Theoretical Views Appropriate to Courses of Problem Behavior

Moffitt’s theory of adolescent-limited vs. life course persistent antisocial behavior emphasizes on the significance of establishing the presence of various subgroups of people within a population who follow similar trajectories of a specific problem behavior (Lynne-Landsman et al., 2011). The recognition of these subgroups of people is significant because different patterns of change in a behavior may have different antecedents or relations with risk for involvement in future problem behaviors. In addition, Jessor’s problem behavior theory stresses the significance of assessing commonalities between a range of problem behaviors to assist in the identification of psychological, social, and behavioral influences on problem behaviors. Nevertheless, the question of the directionality of the effects is a significant issue in trying to comprehend the development of these behaviors better and come up with age-appropriate methods (Lynne‐Landsman et al., 2011).

Programmatic Implications

The outcomes of the Program of Research on the causes and correlates of Juvenile delinquency have several inferences for delinquency intervention and prevention programs. This section discusses the general characteristics of prevention and treatment programs and various content areas to be incorporated into the intervention programs (Wilbanks & Wilbanks, 2009).

Characteristics of Intervention Programs

Prevention programs need to start early in life due to the onset of dangerous types of delinquency and substance abuse in early years. Delinquent professions also need to conform to a series of behavioral pathways that develop from minor to forms of behavior that are more dangerous. Prevention programs need to be created to interrupt the youth in these pathways before their behavior becomes more rooted.

The intervention programs for delinquents, particularly the serious ones, are supposed to be thorough in at least two ways. Firstly, they are required to handle numerous, co-happening problem behaviors faced by dangerous delinquents. Secondly, the delinquency intervention programs need to be thorough in aspects of the multiple and intertwining causes related to delinquency (Wilbanks & Wilbanks, 2009).

Finally, the programs need to be created for the long term because risk factors normally have a long-term consequence on juveniles’ behavior. In addition, for the majority of the youth, dangerous delinquency is usually a constant behavior pattern.

Content Areas for Intervention

Attachment and social integration with effectively socialized people and groups offer a defense against delinquency and substance abuse. Such bonds entail positive emotional ties, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of doing well in pro-social contexts like family, school, and community activities, and with pro-social acquaintances. Conversely, the proof shows that attachment and integration in an antisocial setting and with unsociable friends usually result in unfriendly behaviors (Parker & Benson, 2004). Therefore, the growth of pro-social attachment and integration prevents antisocial attachment and integration and offers a tactic to stop initiation of delinquency and for treatment of those who become delinquent. For individuals to be attached and integrated, they require a chance to take part and the social, personal, and educational abilities that permit them to be successful in a pro-social context. Establishing and backing pro-social community contexts where the youth can be successful also offers prevention and possible treatment referral sources. Nevertheless, this should not just be assistance for numerous groups, clubs, or activities. It should involve and implement activities and procedures that ensure that every participant can succeed and become attached to a pro-social context (Parker & Benson, 2004).





Delinquency, substance abuse, and associated behaviors start at earlier ages than expected. Moreover, there are increased rates of delinquency and drug use among the youth. Studies indicate that determinations to stop delinquent behaviors need to begin early, be thorough and durable, and try to disrupt developmental pathways before dangerous, prolonged delinquency arises. The risk factors include birth trauma, child mistreatment and abandonment, ineffectual parental discipline, family conflicts, behavioral disorder and hyperactivity in children, poor performance in school, learning challenges, negative peer pressures, limited job opportunities, insufficient housing, and residence in high-crime environs. Studies also recommend that intervention programs need to concentrate on family, school, peer, and neighborhood factors; and within these surroundings, emphasize on enhancing efficient and affectionate monitoring and achievement prospects that result in connection to pro-social groups and undertakings.


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