Blog: Research Updates

Roundup: Hospitals May Be Required to Deal with Addictions; Teens Say Easier to Get Pot than Cigarettes; and More

The Juvenile Justice System: a Research Update

juvenile-justice-system-adolescent-substance-abuse-journal-coverAdolescent substance abuse in the juvenile justice system is the subject of Laurie Chassin's excellent article in the Fall 2008 issue of The Future of Children.
But I urge you to check out the entire issue, whose theme is "juvenile justice." Edited by Laurence Steinberg (whose recent book, Rethinking Juvenile Justice, we gave away last March), the journal brings together research from a number of scholars connected with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

Can Puppets Keep Kids Out of the Juvenile Justice System?

keep-kids-out-of-the-juvenile-justice-system-with-puppets-video-stillCan puppets keep kids out of the juvenile justice system? Surprisingly, the answer is "yes."
Because “early onset aggression in children as young as age 3 is the single most-important predictor of later delinquency, substance abuse and violence," Professor Carolyn Webster-Stratton at the University of Washington developed the curriculum, "The Incredible Years," part of which involves using puppets to communicate with young, at-risk children.

Changing Behavior Without Treatment? Provocative Results from Hawaii

adolescent-substance-abuse-treatment-different-approach-book-coverPeople who are truly chemically dependent and drug addicted often require treatment to change their behavior, but not all offenders (especially juvenile offenders) are truly drug dependent. We need effective ways to help them change their behavor too. 
What if youthful offenders were guaranteed to receive a short, mild sanction with each and every violation of their court-ordered probation? Such a program would be far cheaper than drug treatment, but would it change behavior? 

Roundup: Charging Families of Detained Kids Proposed; Swine Flu in Baltimore Juvenile Justice Facility; and More

Roundup: How States Can Use Automation to Increase Health Coverage for Teens; and More



Research: Teaching Parenting Skills Helps Teens Genetically Prone to Risk

Perhaps, like me, you didn't know that there's a genetic variation associated with impulsivity, low self-control, binge drinking, and substance use. Apparently, 40% of the population has it. (Imagine you're a teenager with that gene ... perhaps you'd be even more prone to risky behavior than most?)
Well, a new study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has shown that providing an evidence-based prevention program focusing on parenting skills has a huge impact in helping teens with this gene avoid alcohol and drug use and stay safe.

Agnosticism and the Search for EBP

We in the youth services field should never let our desire to be "evidence-based" turn us into a "faith-based" movement. When we're searching for the most effective ways to help young people avoid trouble with drugs and stay out of the justice system, we should be agnostics — even the most attractive new answer should never stop us from asking important questions.

Juvenile Justice and Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment - More Resources for Your Toolbox

logo of wrench
Here's several useful tools and resources on best practices in juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and juvenile brain research:

Roundup: Racial Impact Statements, EBPs Retain Employees, and More


  • From a great article in the Winter 2009 issue of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice, we found out about a new tool to combat disproportionate minority contact in the justice system: racial impact statements. Iowa now requires that these statements be drawn up whenever new legislation is proposed that affects sentencing, probation, or parole.
  • In this editorial, The New York Times says it's wrong to jail parents too poor to pay for detaining their children. What do you think?

Roundup: New Jersey's Detention Reform Success; All Teens Should be Screened for Depression; and More

  • newspaperNew Jersey's Office of the Child Advocate just released a great report on the state's successful detention reform efforts. For a truly compelling graph showing how juvenile arrests in New Jersey kept dropping even as use of detention was reduced, see the new (and interesting in its own right) Policy for Results website, an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy that focuses on "better results for kids and families through research-informed policy."

Research: Teens Still Struggle Three Years after Detention

In what's probably the largest-scale longitudinal study of its kind to date, researchers have assessed how well detained teens were functioning up to three years later. 
The results, in press at the Journal of Adolescent Health, were based on assessments of "1,653 youth arrested and detained between 1995 and 1998 at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC) in Chicago, Illinois." Researchers used the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS).
What did they learn?

Roundup: A&D Prevention Saves Money (Lots); Study Shows Providers Can Safely Cut Paperwork (Lots); Treatment Fellows Meet, and More


  • A new Iowa State University study shows that $1 invested in prevention saves $10, according to JoinTogether.
  • JoinTogether also reports on a study from the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment that treatment providers can cut up to 6 hours of paperwork per client, without compromising quality of care. Interestingly enough, the researchers teamed up with the director of the Delaware agency overseeing alcohol and drug treatment to survey and work with all substance abuse treatment programs statewide on reducing their paperwork burden. The six-month effort yielded significant positive results - not least an improved relationship between providers and the state.

Roundup: Most Teens Who Need Treatment Don't Get it, Rockefeller Drug Laws May be Repealed, and Much More

Unsurprising news for those of us in Reclaiming Futures: a study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that only about 10 percent of adolescents who have substance abuse problems actually enter treatment, partly because the nation lacks sufficient teen-only treatment services. Furthermore, of the adolescent treatment programs that are available, very few receive "high marks for quality." You can find the actual study in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
More news:

Adolescent Treatment - Update on Two National Conferences

Normally at this time of year, we at the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) are busily preparing for the Joint Meeting on Adolescent Treatment Effectiveness (JMATE) – a national conference on teen substance abuse treatment. This would have been our 5th year for the conference, which has steadily grown in size and scope. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to hold the meeting this year, for reasons beyond our control. We do expect, however, to be able to have the meeting again in 2010. 
For those of you who may not be familiar with JMATE, you can still view the website from last year, where many of the presentations can be downloaded for your use. There are also links to the earlier meetings and their presentations.

High School Seniors as Likely to Smoke Marijuana as Cigarettes

Thumbnail of graph showing cigarette and marijuana use According to data culled by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) from the University of Michigan's ongoing Monitoring the Future study, high school seniors are now about as likely to smoke marijuana as cigarettes: 19.4% reported using marijuana in the last 30 days, vs. the 20.4% lof seniors who reported smoking cigarettes. 
Both cigarette use and marijuana use by seniors have been declining since 1997 -- but cigarette use has dropped much more quickly. 
This is the first time since the early 1980s that cigarette and marijuana use have paralleled each other so closely. (Click on the image for a closer look at the numbers.)

Roundup: Only 10% of U.S. High Schools Use Evidence-Based Prevention Programs, and More

  • Thumbnail of graph from Childrens' Defense Fund reportThe Children's Defense Fund has issued its State of America's Children Report for 2008, and it paints a stark picture, indeed. For example, see p. 49 for a graphic representation of how black youth are disproportionately arrested for drug offenses, even though other data indicates they use drugs at the same rate or less than most other teens.

Cocaine Still a Problem - Especially for White Teens

graphed data through a magnifying glassCharles M. Blow, in an Op-Ed in the January 9th New York Times, reported some scary data from the annual Monitoring the Future study:
...[T]he percentage of both black and white 12th graders who confessed to using cocaine in the past 30 days has essentially stayed flat since 2001. The major difference is that white usage outweighs black usage 4 to 1.
He goes on to add: