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Drug Strategies
Literature Review for Bridging the Gap

Substance abuse today is a widespread problem for youth as a whole, and presents an especially important challenge for those involved in the juvenile justice system. To help inform research related to substance abuse treatment in the juvenile justice system, we conducted a 10-year literature review guided by the framework of the 9 key elements to effective adolescent substance abuse treatment identified by Drug Strategies in Treating Teens: A Guide to Adolescent Drug Programs (Drug Strategies, 2003). These 9 elements were developed with the assistance of a distinguished advisory panel of nationally recognized adolescent substance abuse experts, and consist of: Assessment and Treatment Matching; Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment Approach; Family Involvement in Treatment; Developmentally Appropriate Program; Engage and Retain Teens in Treatment; Qualified Staff; Gender and Cultural Competence; Continuing Care; and Treatment Outcomes. This literature review is part of a process that we hope will lead to the identification of the key elements that are needed to effectively treat substance abusing adolescents involved in the juvenile justice system. The articles discussed in this review were located by conducting Internet searches using the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Pub Med and Google search engines, consulting with a number of experts in both fields, and reviewing bibliographies of prominent articles on both the juvenile justice system and substance abuse treatment. Overview of Substance Abuse Treatment in the Juvenile Justice System More than one-third of all arrests in the U.S. are related to drug and alcohol use, and almost $24 billion was spent in 2000 to incarcerate 1.2 million nonviolent offenders (Kumpfer & Alvarado, 1998; Schiraldi et al., 2000). Due in part to the rate of illicit drug use among youth, in recent years there has been an increasing burden on the juvenile justice system, (Dickinson & Crowe, 1997). Between 1986 and 1996, there was a 291% increase in the rate at which young people were incarcerated because of drug involvement (Schiraldi et al., 2000). Interviews and drug tests from 1998 with more than 3,500 recent juvenile arrestees had over half testing positive for marijuana use (NIJ, 1999). Research suggests that a relatively small group of serious and violent juvenile offenders who are serious drug users accounts for a disproportionate amount of all serious crimes committed by delinquents (VanderWaal, 2001). Substance abuse and delinquency are often closely related. Research indicates that juvenile drug use is connected to recurring, chronic and violent delinquency that can continue well into adulthood (VanderWaal, 2001). Furthermore, a 1999 Australian study found that substance use variables do predict involvement in violent crime (Lennings, 2003). Common factors such as school and family problems, negative peer groups, a lack of neighborhood social controls, and a history of physical or sexual abuse can lead to higher risk for both drug abuse and delinquency (Dickinson & Crowe, 1997). Despite this prominence of substance abuse problems among juvenile delinquents, the research literature suggests that there is far from unanimous agreement as to what constitutes effective treatment for young offenders. While a meta-analysis by Lipsey & Wilson (1998) of 200 studies found that intervention programs can reduce the reoffending rates of serious delinquents, VanderWaal (2001) concluded that few interventions have demonstrated consistently positive scientific outcomes in breaking the juvenile drug-crime cycle. Butts and Mears (2001) argue that the earlier an intervention occurs, the more likely it is to be cost-effective and to reduce negative outcomes such as criminal behavior. Yet in a 1997 survey of short- and long-term juvenile correctional facilities, the Substance Abuse and...
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