Study Finds that Substance Abuse Treatment Reduces Criminal Behavior and Drug Use of Adolescents in the Criminal Justice System

Longitudinal study of substance abuse and anti-social behavior among serious adolescent offenders

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh coordinated a longitudinal study of 1,355 serious adolescent offenders in Philadelphia and Phoenix to learn what paths led them to continued engagement with the criminal justice system or away from it.

Preliminary Findings

  • As of March 2006, investigators reported the following preliminary findings, while emphasizing that they could change as they collect and analyze further data:

    • Substance abuse treatment lowers substance use and significantly reduces criminal behavior, even if delivered in conditions that are not standardized by providers who are not highly trained.
    • Youth who need mental health and substance abuse treatment do not consistently receive it.
    • Employees at public facilities identify offenders who need substance abuse and other treatment as effectively, and sometimes more so, than employees in private facilities.

Investigators received an additional $10.9 million in funding from federal and state government agencies and foundations.