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Study of formerly incarcerated youths shows varying substance abuse patterns

March 21, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Research on youths who entered Cook County, Ill.'s juvenile detention system in the period from 1995-1998 has found significant demographic differences among the youths who had substance use disorders at some point leading up to young adulthood. More than 90% of males and nearly 80% of females were found to have a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetime; the individuals were interviewed up to 9 times over a 16-year period.

Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the study involved a random sample of more than 1,800 youths ages 10 to 18 who had been incarcerated in Cook County's juvenile facilities. Here were some of the main findings:

  • Alcohol and marijuana use disorders were more common among young males, while prevalence of cocaine, opioid, amphetamine and sedative disorders was higher in females.

  • Prevalence of any substance use disorder decreased as youths aged.

  • Marijuana use disorders were more prevalent at younger ages than other substance use disorders, but by the end of the study alcohol use disorders were the most commonly seen disorder.