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

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.