Most Juveniles in Chicago Detention Center Have Had Drug or Alcohol Problems

Young teens having fun at home, playing video games

Most teens who have gone through the juvenile detention center in Chicago have been diagnosed with drug or alcohol abuse or dependency at some point in their lives, a new study finds. Northwestern University researchers found more than 90 percent of males and almost 80 percent of females who went through the detention center had substance use problems during their teen years or in young adulthood, the Chicago Tribune reports.

 The study tracked 1,829 youths detained at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center between 1995 and 1998. The median age of subjects was 15 at the start of the study. They were followed over 12 years. By the time the youth reached their late 20s or early 30s, most had been diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

  • Males in the study were more likely than females to have problems with marijuana and alcohol. 
  • Females were more likely to have problems with cocaine, opioids, amphetamines and sedatives. 
  • Non-Hispanic white youths were 30 times as likely as African-American youths to abuse cocaine. 
  • Hispanic youths were more than 20 times as likely to abuse cocaine compared with African-American youths. 

The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health. “Unfortunately, substance use disorders were the rule, not the exception,” lead author Leah Welty said in a news release. “These young adults already face substantial challenges in completing education, establishing careers and building families. Substance abuse further compromises their futures.” Study co-author Linda A. Teplin noted, “Our findings add to the growing debate on how the war on drugs has affected African Americans. We found that African Americans are less likely than other racial/ethnic groups to abuse hard drugs. Yet, African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated for drug crimes.”