Northwestern Juvenile Project Finds Drug Use, Psychiatric Disorders, Risky Sex Among Young Chicago-Area Offenders in the Late 1990s

Continuation of a longitudinal study of substance-abusing youthful offenders

Between 1995 and 1998, researchers from Northwestern University Medical School interviewed 1,829 youth detained at the juvenile facility in Cook County, Ill., as part of a longitudinal study of the health issues and outcomes of youth in juvenile detention.

The investigators conducted follow-up interviews from 2001 to 2003 in order to assess longer-term outcomes related to:

  • Substance abuse
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • HIV/AIDS risk behaviors.

Key Findings

The investigators reported these key findings from the initial interviews completed between 1995 and 1998:

  • Half of the males and 46.8 percent of females had a substance use disorder.

  • Nearly two-thirds of males and nearly three-quarters of females met diagnostic criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders.

  • Nearly 14 percent of females and 11 percent of males had both a major psychiatric disorder and a substance use disorder.

  • Drug risk behaviors were common among both males and females, particularly among non-Hispanic white and Hispanic youth.

  • More males than females engaged in sexual risk behaviors, with a higher prevalence of such behavior among African-American males than among non-Hispanic white males.