Delinquency and Substance Abuse
Explore the relationship between delinquency and substance abuse, from causes and risk factors to the prevalance of juvenile delinquency.
Delinquency is a term that is used to describe illegal or antisocial behaviors and activities. Delinquent behavior may include drug use, underage drinking, violence, sex crimes or property crimes. Individuals who are delinquent typically express antisocial opinions, are involved in activities that are dangerous, harmful and wrong and are often outspoken in their rejection of punishments associated with their crimes.
In some cases, there is a strong link between delinquent behavior and substance abuse. Many delinquents will seek out activities that are considered criminal or wrong. In this case, drug use is both criminal and socially unacceptable in most circles. A delinquent person may be under the influence of alcohol and or drugs when they commit a crime, or they may be committing a crime such as theft to get funds to fuel their drug and alcohol use.
Causes and Risk Factors of Delinquency
Delinquency is considered a serious issue, with several different theories relating to its cause. Some theorists suggest that delinquency is the result of psychological health. Particular behavior or mood disorders may be associated with the involvement in delinquent activities, including substance abuse. Antisocial personality disorder is one condition that is closely linked with delinquent behavior. This condition is typically associated with abnormal or destructive thinking, perception and relationships with others. In other words, a delinquent does not have any regard for right and wrong, or for other people. Individuals who suffer from this condition are often in trouble with the police, have issues with aggression and violence, abuse drugs and alcohol and have an inability to hold down jobs or create and maintain meaningful relationships with others.
The environment that a person grows up in or is currently residing in can also contribute to involvement in delinquent crimes. Low levels of attachment, poor education, lack of access to health care and services and regular exposure to violent and abusive crimes can cause a person to be involved. Young males are particularly at risk of being influenced by their surroundings and being involved in troublesome and impulsive activities including property damage and public nuisance crimes. This may be because there is a lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions or they have not developed personal self-control.
Juvenile Delinquency and Drug Use
Young people begin to experiment with drugs, new social groups, music and their sexuality from the age of 14. Many will explore new ideas, have challenging times with their parents and other authority figures and may begin to act out. In the majority of cases, this is perfectly harmless and a key stage in growing up. But others will begin to abuse their body with alcohol and drugs and the consequences can be incredibly harmful.
Underage drinking is a common activity that is considered delinquent. Young people who engage in drinking before the legal age has been met are placing themselves and others at risk. They can be charged with a criminal act in some countries, including Australia and United Kingdom. Additionally, they place themselves at risk of being the victim of abuse, sexual assault or being involved in a crime. Underage drinking can also have negative consequences for a person’s health, which is especially sensitive during certain stages of development. A young person who regularly binge drinks or drinks to excess can do significant damage to their brain and other organs which can lead to long term health problems.
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Excessive dangerous drinking and drug-taking can also lead to being involved in traffic accidents which can have fatal consequences. Some young people will get behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle, when they are not licensed or when they are high or drunk. The risk of being involved in a traffic accident, either as a driver, passenger or other road user, is significantly higher when a person is intoxicated. Young people who get behind the wheel when they are under the influence are at an even higher risk of being involved in an accident.
The use of drugs during adolescence can cause significant physical and social problems that can endure. As a young person is going through a distinct period of change, being involved in drugs and drug culture at this time can change the body chemistry, cause harm to sensitive brain cells and even contribute to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, because many young people do not have the same thought processes as older adults, they will experiment in dangerous and risky ways and also become involved in antisocial activities, practice unsafe sex and become the victims of crime. Being involved in a crime or criminal activity can have long lasting effects on a person’s life, including restricting their options for jobs and travel.
Delinquency Cycle and Addiction
Once a person has become involved in a lifestyle that is delinquent, antisocial or criminal, they can find it difficult to move beyond that life. The long-term consequences of being involved in delinquent activities can include health problems, difficulties in finding and maintaining a job, family and relationship issues and financial difficulties. These problems can all contribute to a person being again involved in a criminal act or taking drugs or drinking to excess. The cycle of delinquency can be a terribly difficult cycle to break without support and dedication.
For those who are incarcerated as a result of their behaviors, they can find themselves involved in a violent place with violent people. Prisons are typically violent places with reports of prisoner related physical and sexual violence common. In prison they may be encouraged or pressured to take drugs that are on offer inside the cells, typically intravenous drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin. Both these drugs have a high risk of addiction and also increased risk of contracting blood-borne viruses such as HIV or Hepatitis.