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While experts discuss whether drug abuse by adolescents and juveniles has risen into an epidemic, the statistics proves that the level of this sort of delinquency is extremely high among them.  Whether the youngsters use illicit drugs only once or on a regular basis, the harmful effect still is present—the substances harm the body, alter mood and behavior of the youth, may negatively impact their academic records etc.  The society copes with the issue developing a number of legal measures starting with consultations and treatment of the drug users and addicts and finishing with juvenile drug courts that are called to treat juveniles differently from adults. Therefore, though the abuse includes features of the criminal act, the courts usually apply probational periods and special treatment programs avoiding crackdown measures, if possible. This is the time when juveniles are given the second chance and the community should help them overcome the difficult period.

Juvenile and Adolescent Drug Use

I. Drugs and Their Control

A. Definition and Main Features of the Drugs

Though the drug is a substance that is initially designed to cure human psychological and physical disorders, any drug may be poisonous in certain conditions.  Therefore, drugs are often used according to medical prescriptions and state authorities control the types of drugs that can impact humans inappropriately.  Authorized organizations work out special rules that are given with a virtue of law to protect society members from any harmful effects of the drugs.  The Federal government has adopted a few regulations that provide definitions of the term “drug” according to its purpose and impact on human beings, with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) taking central place among them.

The term “drug”, according to the section 201(g)(1) of the Controlled Substances Act, means “any article that is recognized in the official pharmacopoeia … or any supplement to them; article intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals; and article (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals” (Federal Drug Agency (FDA), 2012 a). Thus, according to this definition, the drugs can be used differently due to their capability of affecting bodily functions of humans and animals. Moreover, as the individuals consist not only of the body, but also of the personality, which is their integral part, certain drugs may impact psychological condition too. To avoid any misuses of drugs that impact human personality extremely strong, the government controls their manufacturing and use.

To maintain legal enforcement for the provision and to ban the illicit use of the controlled drugs, the Act defines the main categories of drugs that fall under its effect and sets punitive measures to prevent any abuse. Thus, the Act “places all the substances which were in some manner regulated under existing federal law into one of five schedules … depending upon medical use, potential for abuse, and safety of dependence liability” (Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 2012, p. 8).

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Despite of the general definition of drugs, the substances that fall under the federal control meet requirements listed in the schedules that have practical applications. Firstly they provide description of the controlled drugs and their examples. For instance, the first schedule includes marijuana and heroine, emphasizing seriousness of the illicit drugs abuse.  Secondly, in case of a drug abuse law enforcement agencies qualify the level of responsibility and choose the legal measures to prevent illegal activities, according to the category to which the drug is referred.

B. Characteristics of the Controlled Substances

The controlled drugs are distinguished by their influence on the human body and consciousness. Such division plays a twofold role in case of their abuses: the first—it provides an appropriate legal protection and criminal responsibility for breach of the drug law; and the second—it allows to apply treatment measures to the ones suffering because of the addiction or dependency.  This division, when informing about negative effects of the substances, is especially important for the juveniles in case of their delinquency behavior that puts them at risk of the drug abuse.

The youths try drugs for the first time due to several reasons: having certain expectations of the new experience they might hear from their peers, TV, in the street etc.  Thus, when trying drugs for the first time, they wish to quit the reality, the problems they cannot solve at school or in families, to get socialized with new peers who are drug users, or just support a company of adolescents who wish to get new exciting and dangerous experience. Many of them are ‘skin-deep’ aware of the harmful effects of such engagement, though can have mistaken belief about perceptions they may sense during such experiments.

The information about effects of the controlled drugs is open. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (2012), drugs may provide the following effects: amphetamines, many of which can be obtained at drugstore by the medical prescription, “speed up the body’s system”; “cannabis causes a euphoric effect”; and “cocaine is an intense, euphoria-producing stimulant drug”.  These entire characteristics, if left without explanation about the negative consequences of the illicit use, may seem to be attractive for one desiring new sensual experiences.  To fix the situation with unawareness, multiple organizations conduct explanatory and educational work at schools, clubs, and other places of the adolescents’ presence.

C. Responsibility for the Drug Abuse

In 1988, The Congress passed the law designed to tackle the illicit drug use that sets legal responsibility not only to the drug dealers, but to the illicit drug users as well (DEA, 2012, p. 14). The criminal responsibility for possession of the controlled drugs has been provided by the CSA as well. Thus, according to the section (g) (1), the illegal distributors of the controlled substances will be liable “to pay the fine under title 18 or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both” and the individuals guilty in illegal possession of the drugs will “be fined … or imprisoned not more than one year, or both”. The latter’s responsibility appears only if the person “acts knowingly and does not make steps to remedy the violation” (FDA, 2012 a).

However, in case the drug is ldquo;found in a small amount” and there are no previous criminal records connected with the drug abuse, the offender may be relieved from the criminal punishment on the grounds of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act adopted in 1988 (DEA, 2012, p. 14). The guilty person “possessing only small quantity of an illegal drug … carried just for a personal use” may be obliged to pay a “civil fine of up to $10,000” (ibid), which saves money of the budget and time of the people who can get another chance to give up the harmful illegal habit and avoid imprisonment, where the habit may aggravate.

There is a pending discussion about grounds for the criminal responsibility of individuals, who could not control themselves while being under the drug influence. The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse ruled that as the drug users put themselves into such condition willfully and are aware of biological and social impact of such action, they qualify to bear responsibility for their crimes (Sullivan, 1973, p. 386). However, in 1869, Judge Doe of the New Hampshire Supreme Court claimed that one who was not aware of “what is right or wrong due to the propelling disease, is as innocent as the weapon”, therefore he could not be punished for what he had done in such a condition of “inability and incapacity”(Sullivan, 1973, p. 395). In some cases defendants tried to develop a doctrine of a “settled insanity” to avoid criminal responsibility, but failed because of the voluntary intoxication, which “is not beyond the control of the defendant” (Carter-Yamauchi, 1998, p. 47).

II. Juveniles and Drug Abuse

A. Juveniles and Legal aAproach to Responsibility

The U.S. treats the adolescent drug abusers differently from the adults. It is caused by several reasons, including physical and psychological condition of the youngsters who should have “the second change” to get rid of the harmful habit. Many states solve the issue with the juvenile delinquency in similar ways, but with some particularities. The minimal age of criminal penalty is different in states, though the common law prescribes to use the federal experience throughout the country. Besides, the term “adolescents” has a different meaning too.

Thus, only several states set a minimal age for the criminal responsibility. According to the United Nation’s Children Fund (2012), 13 states “set minimum ages, with range from 6 to 12 years and most states rely on common law, which holds from age 7 to 14”. Such a law limit of the minimal age can be explained by the common twofold legal approach that, though children cannot fully understand illegal acts and “bear responsibility” for them, still they “can be held responsible” (ibid). Though, juridical doctrine finds people that cannot fully understand their actions as such who cannot bear responsibility because of insanity, for instance.

As to the term “adolescents”, there is not a legal unification throughout the states. Though in many states the threshold for being a juvenile is set at 18 years, in others the figure varies. For instance, in Alberta acts the law, according to which “an adolescent is identified as an individual 12,13, or 14 years old” (Government of Alberta, 2011, p.1). In some states the threshold is 17 years and in Connecticut, New York and North Carolina—the age of 16. 

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B. Risk Factors for a Drug Abusing Behavior

Important places among the risk factors take bad relationships with friends, peers, and parents. Thus, According to the survey of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2010, the drugs use “was lower among adolescents whose parents reported to be “always” or “sometimes” engaged in monitoring behaviors than among youths whose parents “seldom” or “never” engaged in such behaviors” (2011 a, p. 3). Wrong sensual expectations are important for the illicit drug use too, because juveniles hope to try some “exciting, dangerous, and risky behaviors that fulfill some adolescents need to urge” (McShane & Williams, 2009, p. 92). Another important risk factor is a family setting, in which parents, at least mother, are smokers and/or moderate drinkers (Miller & Cisin in Beschner, 1985, p. 3). Finally, some juveniles may submit to the “peers’ pressure to try the drug” (Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. 2011, p. 412).

C. Juvenile Drug Use and Delinquency

Though there is a pending discussion among experts and scholars whether the drug abuse reached the size of an epidemic or the situation with the juvenile drug delinquency is under governmental and societal control, statistics prove that the number of abusers rise steadily.  Besides, many studies proved relationship among the illicit drug use and antisocial conduct of the young users. Moreover, the rates of the illegal users also grow due to appearance of new drugs on the illegal drug market and even statistics cannot show the exact scope of the problem.

At first, the number of juveniles involved into the illicit drug use is significant throughout the country. Since 1975, when the Monitoring for Future (MTF) started and the majority of adolescents were involved in the illicit use, “the figure rose to two-thirds (66 %) in 1981” and gradually declined to 55 % in 1999 and to 48 % in 2010” (Bachman, et al., 2011, p. 10). The dynamics of growth and decline in the illicit drug use concerned all the adolescent age categories—from 12- to 17-years-old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010, p. 16). In these groups of youths 10 % were current illicit drug users in 2009, 7,3 % of them used marijuana and 5,3 %--other drugs, including cocaine, according to the survey (p. 17).

The survey also mentioned that “ in 2009, of the 7,1 million persons aged 12 or older classified with dependence on or abuse of illicit drug, 4.3 million were dependent on or abused marijuana, 1.9 million persons—of pain relievers, and 1.1 million persons—of cocaine” (p. 74).

Secondly, the illicit drug use is connected with other crimes and delinquency rates. Thus, a study conducted in Alaska shows (Wood, 2009, p. 42) that among “criminal offences reported to the Alaska troopers in 2004, involving drug use … sexual assaults committed 4,5 % Alaska natives and 7,7 % non-natives … family violence—1,7 % and 3,3 % accordingly.” Besides, “the use of drugs also increases probability of victimization at rates roughly close to the ones indicated for offenders: among Alaska non-natives 4,9 percent sexually abused victims used drugs and among natives—4,4 percent” (ibid). According to the FBI’s report, among the adolescent arrestees “close to 60 percent of the juvenile males and 46 percent of the females tested positive for drug use at arrest” (McShane & Williams, 2009, p. 85)

The report of the Office of national Drug Control Policy (ODCP) on the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II (ADAM II) shows connection between illicit drug use and crime occurrences among adolescents. Thus, “test results for presence of illicit drugs among arrestees who tested positive for the presence of at least one of the 10 drugs that are detected through urinalysis differs by cities throughout he country in 2010: in Atlanta—more than 60%, Chicago—more than 85%, Washington – more than 50% etc. ” (ODCP b, 2011, p. 18). The results of the research show that there is a possibility to use more than one drug and there is a high probability that the adolescents also used more than 10 drugs mentioned there.

As to the types of drugs: marijuana prevailed among the arrestees “35 % of which were tested positive in Atlanta and over 50 %--in Sacramento” (ODCP, 2011, p. 20); “cocaine, which takes the second place by use among abusers prior to the arrest, was found in 12 percent cases in Sacramento and 33 percent in Atlanta” (ODCP, 2011, p. 24); the third place took heroin and opiates—“20 percent of arrestees in Chicago and 11 present in Sacramento tested positive” (ODCP, 2011, p. 29); and “27 percent of arrestees reported methamphetamine use in Sacramento within 30 days prior to the arrest and 22 percent—in Portland” (ODCP, 2011, p. 33). According to the annual report of the U. S. Department of Justice, the preference of the illicit drug use remained almost unchanged since 2000. Thus, the urinalysis for marijuana tested positive in most cases and cocaine took the “distant second” place, while amphetamines found in few cases (U. S. Department of Justice, 2003, p. 3). Among all the adolescent detainees marijuana tests of 41 % were positive (U. S. Department of Justice, 2003, p. 133).

Relationship between crimes, delinquency, and illicit drug use was found by a number of researchers. Thus, Uggen and Thompson (in Bushway et al., 2008, p. 604) claimed that “cocaine and heroine use led to significant increases in individuals’ illegal earnings in a sample of offenders, drug addicts and youth dropouts”. Thus, the study shows correlation between the illicit drug use and crimes and proves that “use of cocaine or heroin is related to the increases in income-generating crime”, because “18.4% of income-related crimes were committed” by individuals who didn’t use the drugs within 2 months”, but “63.1% used the drugs within this time” (Bushway et al., 2008, p. 620).

D. Negative Consequences of the Illicit Drug Use

While many juveniles wishing to try illicit drugs are urged by curiosity, they forget or disregard the possible negative consequences of such experience. Not only their physical health can be impacted by such experience, but their psychological health, family and peer connections may be threatened too. Thus, appropriate education and information about the negative impact of drugs on the individual’s health take a significant place in prevention of illicit drug use experience among youths.

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The adverse effects of the illicit drugs use vary from the temporary disorders to the deaths of drug users. The use may cause drug addiction, overdose, disease and even death (Bachman et al., 2011, p. 6). According to the National Criminal Justice Reference center, there are several inevitable consequences of the illicit drug use: “drug-related crimes cost the country $ 66,9 billion; everyone pays hundreds of dollars annually to cover the expense of unnecessary health care, extra law enforcement, auto accidents, crime, and lost productivity resulting from substance abuse” (n.d.) Besides, the delinquent behavior and influence of the chemicals impede social connections and academic records of the juveniles. Many “hospital emergency room episodes are drug-related”, a lot of drug users are addicts, die from the overdose, contract “chronic and sexually-transmittable diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS” etc. (ibid).

Besides, according to the “gateway theory”, the abuser will gradually need stronger drugs and doses, which, finally, will destroy him (McShane & Williams III, 2009, p. 93). Psychological and physical conditions of regular illicit drug users worsen gradually. They become “compulsive, hostile, agitated, and violent” (Beschner, 1985, p. 2). Wishing to get rid of the real life issues, such juveniles get into a trap instead--“5 percent of teens aged 14-18 have serious drug-related problems and generally need treatment” (ibid).

E. Measures Taken to Cope with the Issue

Family and other social settings play decisive role in the ability of a drug user to give up the habit or not to try the drugs. Thus, during the rehabilitation period or as a measure of prevention of the illicit drug use, the family members should “teach the adolescents to develop the following qualities and abilities: anxiety reduction through relaxation; desensitization in regard to criticism, rejection, and expression of anger; appropriate emotive expression; effective communicative skills” (Friedman, 1985, p. 28).

Other means to cope with the harmful habit include special treatment intervention programs in the “therapeutic communities, halfway houses, outpatient programs, and specialized counseling programs in family service units, often associated with city- or county-run clinics” (Kusnetz, 1985, p. 31). These measures are rather costly, but are specially designed to the needs of the adolescents and prove to be effective if the youths are temporarily exempted from their habitual setting and surrounded with care.

Though the dispute on the necessity of certain measures to overcome the adolescent illicit drug abuse lasts, the need to cope with the problem remains vital. The harmful effects of drugs deprive juveniles from the fully-fledged participation in social activity, harm their physical and mental health, relationships with friends, peers, and family members. Besides, a criminal responsibility does not guarantee the arrestees from the return to the illicit drugs use and crimes that are connected under their influence. Therefore, the society has developed a number of legal, therapeutic, surveying and educational measures helping the youths to avoid the trouble, give up the harmful habit, get the second chance and return to the normal life.

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