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Frequent Marijuana Use Among Teens is Up

A joint. JJIE file photo. Ryan Schill / JJIE.orgHeavy marijuana use among teens has increased drastically in recent years, with nearly one in 10 sparking up 20 times or more each month, according to a new survey of young Americans released this morning.

The findings represent nearly an 80 percent increase in past-month heavy marijuana use among high school aged youth since 2008.

Overall, the rate of marijuana use among teens has increased. Past month marijuana users, or teens that have used marijuana in the month prior to the survey, increased 42 percent, to 27 percent of teens, compared to 2008 findings. Past-year and lifetime use also increased, but not as drastically, at 26 percent and 21 percent respectively.

Marijuana use has not been this widespread among American teens since 1998, when the past-month usage rate hovered around 27 percent, according the survey conducted by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the MetLife Foundation.

“Heavy use of marijuana – particularly beginning in adolescence – brings the risk of serious problems and our data show it is linked to involvement with alcohol and other drugs as well,” Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, said in a press release. “Kids who begin using drugs or alcohol as teenagers are more likely to struggle with substance use disorders when compared to those who start using after the teenage years.”

The use of marijuana is becoming normalized among teens, too, according to the survey of 3,322 teen-aged students in grades 9-12 and 821 parents. Seventy-one percent of teens said they have friends who use the drug, up 64 percent from 2008, and only 26 percent agreed with the statement, “in my school, most teens don’t smoke marijuana.”

Still, while the number of teens who have used marijuana in their lifetime is on the rise, less than half of high school aged students have actually used the drug. The rate of teens who disapproved of their peer’s use of the drug remained unchanged since 2008, with more than 60 percent disapproving of the practice – and 41 percent who said they “strongly disapprove.”

Heavy users  are drastically more likely to use other drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy and prescription drugs, compared to their peers who reported not using marijuana in the past year, the report found.

Teen boys, especially Hispanic males, have led the increase in the past year. Heavy usage by teen boys usage increased at nearly twice the rate of their female counterparts. Hispanic high school males are more likely to have used marijuana in the past year compared to their peers. Fifty percent reported using the drug in the past year, compared to 40 percent of black and 35 percent of white teens.

“The latest findings showing an increase in marijuana use among teens is unsettling and should serve as a wake-up call to everyone in a position to prevent unhealthy behavior,” said Dennis White, President and CEO of MetLife Foundation, who contributed to the report. “While it may be difficult to clearly understand just how dangerous marijuana use can be for teens, it is imperative that we all pay attention to the warning signs and intervene anyway we can.”

The findings are part of the 23rd annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, a yearly gauge of teens’ and parents’ attitudes toward issues that affect their lives.

 

Photo credit: Ryan Schill/JJIE

Meth Project Ads Effective at Preventing Drug Use, Study Says

The Meth Project’s graphic ads are effective at deterring meth use, according to new research by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The new study, “How Disgust Enhances the Effect of Fear Appeals,” compared ads that rely on disgust and fear with ads that use fear alone as the deterring element.

Researchers showed a series of three ads to a group of college students. Each of the ads had an identical message, but the images were different. Those that relied only on an element of fear did not lead to immediate changes in attitudes or behavior. However, the study says ads by the Meth Project (and other similar ads) that incorporated elements of disgust such as rotting teeth, skin sores or infections, did not compel viewers to “undertake distancing behaviors,” such as deciding not to use illegal drugs.

Ads shown to the college students were grouped in to three categories — fear and disgust, represented by an actual Meth Project ad depicting a teen with open sores on his face; fear-only, represented by the image of a coffin; and neutral, represented by two teens sitting side by side. According to the study, the Meth Project ad, with its graphic depiction of addiction, was the only ad that affected viewers’ future intention to use illegal drugs.

Most Victims of Sexual Assault Know the Alleged Offender, Study Finds

A study conducted in a sexual assault resource center found more than 70 percent of alleged offenders were known to the victims. The report by researchers at the University of Tennessee, “Percentage of Named Offenders on the Registry at the Time of the Assault: Reports from Sexual Assault Survivors,” used one year of data from the resource center during which it provided services to approximately 1,300 people.

Full names were provided for more than 60 percent of the known assailants. Of those 566 cases only 4.8 percent were found on a sex offender registry and even fewer, 3.7 percent (21 cases) were listed publicly due to the date of conviction. More than 95 percent of the alleged offenders were know personally to the victims in the 21 cases where the offender could have been identified by the sex offender registry.

Researchers concluded the sex offender registries might have limited impact due to the fact that they only include convicted sex offenders. Further complicating the issue, past studies have shown “95.9 percent of those arrested for rape and 94.1 percent of those arrested for child molestation were first-time sex offenders.”

The report was published in the journal Violence Against Women.

Controlling Parents More Likely to Have Delinquent Children, Study Finds

Demanding, highly controlling, authoritarian parents are more likely to have delinquent, disrespectful children than parents who are seen by their children as legitimate authority figures, according to research from the University of New Hampshire (UNH).

Relying on data from the New Hampshire Youth Study, a longitudinal survey of middle and high school children, researchers identified three distinct parenting styles — authoritative, authoritarian and permissive and looked at whether those styles influenced children’s beliefs about the legitimacy of their parents’ authority, according to a press release from UNH.

“The style that parents used to rear their children had a direct influence on whether those children perceived their parents as legitimate authority figures,” said Rick Trinkner, a doctoral candidate at UNH and the lead researcher. “Adolescents who perceived parents as legitimate were then less likely to engage in delinquent behavior.”

Authoritative parents, who are demanding and controlling but also warm and receptive, are more likely to raise children who view their parents as having legitimate authority.

Children of authoritarian parents, on the other hand, perceived their parents as the least legitimate, according to the study.

“When children consider their parents to be legitimate authority figures, they trust the parent and feel they have an obligation to do what their parents tell them to do,” Trinkner said. “This is an important attribute for any authority figure to possess, as the parent does not have to rely on a system of rewards and punishments to control behavior, and the child is more likely to follow the rules when the parent is not physically present.”

Permissive parents who are not demanding or controlling of their children but who are still warm and receptive to their needs, have children who are less self-controlled and content. Because they rarely enforce rules, their children do not see them as having parental authority.

“While it is generally agreed that authoritative parenting is more effective than authoritarian and permissive styles, little is known about why some parenting styles are more efficient than others,” Trinkner said. “Our results showed that parental legitimacy was an important mechanism by which parenting styles affected adolescent behavior.”

Witnessing Violence Creates Violent Kids, Study Says

Children who witness violence often think it is normal, a development that can lead to violent behavior, says a new study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The researchers, who surveyed 800 children between the ages of 8 and 12, asked the children if they had witnessed violence on television, at home or at school.  Six months later they were polled a second time.  Children who said they had witnessed violence were aggressive, according to the study.

"People exposed to a heavy diet of violence come to believe that aggression is a normal way to solve conflict and get what you want in life,” the study’s authors wrote.  “These beliefs lower their inhibitions against aggression against others."

The full study is available by subscription only, but you can read more at ScienceDaily.

Benjamin Chambers: What Works with Serious Juvenile Offenders – Pathways to Desistance Study

Does the juvenile justice system really work?

Reading comments from readers on news stories about youth in trouble, you'd think the juvenile justice sysem was a system designed to mollycoddle dangerous kids, turning them into super-predators.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Among other reasons, we know this because of "Pathways to Desistance," a research study led by Edward P. Mulvey, Director of the Law and Psychiatry Program at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. (Dr. Mulvey and Carol Schubert contributed a post to us on their findings in April 2010.)

The "Pathways to Desistance" research study is a unique study of what works in the juvenile justice system. This large, multi-site research project followed 1,354 serious juvenile offenders for seven years. An informative brief on the study findings was released in 2009 by the MacArthur Foundation; now, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has released another fact sheet, titled, "Highlights From Pathways to Desistance: A Longitudinal Study of Serious Adolescent Offenders."

Here's what the study found:

  • Most youth quit or reduce their offending over time.  Only 8.5 percent of the youth in the study persisted at high levels of offending. As Dr. Mulvey explains in the OJJDP fact sheet,

"Two factors that appear to distinguish high-end desisters from persisters are lower levels of substance use and greater stability in their daily routines, as measured by stability in living arrangements and work and school attendance."

  • Providing services and sanctions based on individual need -- factors including substance abuse, mental health needs, family background -- could be more effective than providing them based on severity of the crime and prior convictions. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the youth who persisted in offending and those who reduced their offending behavior got about the same kind and intensity of services.
  • In a related finding, the study found that incarceration did not reduce offending. In fact, for the subgroup of serious juvenile offenders who greatly reduced their offending after contact with the justice system -- who spent about 30 percent of the study followup period in institutional care -- incarceration actually increased their offending to a small, but statistically signifcant degree.

If locking them up didn't help, what did? Community-based services and probation supervision. As Dr. Mulvey writes,

"Youth who received community-based supervision and aftercare services were more likely to attend school, go to work, and avoid further offending during the 6 months after release, and longer supervision periods increased these benefits."

  • For many of these youth -- those meeting their definition of "serious juvenile offenders" -- substance abuse treatment is key, as the MacArthur Foundation brief makes clear:

"Levels of substance use and associated problems are very high in these young offenders. More than one-third qualify for a diagnosis of substance use disorder in the year prior to the baseline interview, and over 80 percent report having used drugs or alcohol during the previous six months. Moreover, the level of substance use walks in lockstep with illegal activity over the follow-up period: more substance use, more criminal offending."

Treating youth for at least 90 days, with their family members involved, cut both their substance abuse and their offending, at least during the six months after treatment.  (Tellingly, the sub-study this conclusion was based on, "Substance use treatment outcomes in a sample of male serious juvenile offenders," which appeared in 2009 in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, found that only 25% of the serious juvenile offenders in its sample received treatment that included family members. The study authors speculated that this might be partly because these offenders were being treated in secure institutional environments, rather than the community.)

In an age when every state is trying to find money to fund juvenile justice services, policy makers should be turning to this research to help them guide funding to what works in juvenile justice.

The above story is reprinted with permission from Reclaiming Futures, a national initiative working to improve alcohol and drug treatment outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system.