Substance Abuse Among Youths and Intervention

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 11
Words: 3092
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: Master

Youths Drug Use

In many societies worldwide, the youths have identified an easy way of satisfying and coping with life conditions through involvement in substance abuse. Substance abuse has become a common factor; nearly 70% of the youth take alcohol before graduating from high school (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). The usage of alcohol and other drugs among the youths has been triggered by peer pressure, family, and societal influence. Addiction is of great concern as many youths engage in activities that threaten their lives through violence and impulsive sexual behavior (Sharp et al., 2019). From the national survey, the number of youths reported having used drugs has increased steadily. The drugs used can result in short-term and long-term consequences among the youths. The most used substances include marijuana, tobacco and its products, and alcohol.


Statistics show that alcohol is the most used substance among youths. It is noted that approximately 70% of the youths in 12th grade have used alcohol (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). More than 90% of the youths consume alcohol in a binge where the consumption is approximated to be within the range of 1 and 2 hours (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). Most of the youths drink alcohol using bottles which makes them consume a large portion of the alcohol content compared to the adults. This makes them vulnerable to accidents, unprotected sex, and injuries (Liddell & Burnette, 2017). As efforts to discourage drinking among the youths have increased, society has portrayed that drinking is fashionable and acceptable. The youths who drink are perceived as superior compared to those who do not drink. Families have also played a significant role in enhancing the drinking habits among the youths as the youths view the habit as acceptable in their home setup. There are instances where adolescents have developed alcohol disorders making it difficult to quit the habit.


Tobacco usage among the youths has considerably declined since the 1990s. The survey data from National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that 5.7% of the youths in 12th grade consume tobacco. This is a decrement compared to 2018, which was 7.6% and 28.3% in 1991 (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). The proportion of 12th-grade youths who smoke daily is approximately 2% (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). The survey study also portrayed that most people who smoke in adulthood began their smoking habits in high school. However, despite reducing smoking habits among the youths, many youths have been affected and require intervention. Factors contributing to the increased smoking habits among the youths include parents who smoke, celebrities, and peer pressure (Lardier et al., 2018). Tobacco usage has negative impacts such as poor problem-solving ability, poor school performance, exposure to risky behavior, and poor self-esteem.

Electronic Cigars

Electronic cigars have dramatically increased among the youths in high school. Usage of these products has significantly increased since 2013, with an increase of about 21% (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). Electronic cigar makes use of nicotine liquid that is converted into vapor through heating. The liquid has active nicotine compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This product has become a popular product among the youth, and it is estimated that its usage will keep increasing. Nicotine products lead to vital lung injuries, which may lead to death.


From the NIH survey conducted in 2019, usage of marijuana among high school students is approximately 22.3%. This was an increment compared to the 20.6 % of active users in 2009 (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). Approximately 43.7% of the students have reported using marijuana more than once in their high school period (“Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents”, 2020). Marijuana usage has negative effects such as respiratory infections and mental health problems.

Restorative Justice / Model Programs

Restorative Justice

The program model uses communication and technique to enable the crime convict to understand the impact of crime, thereby taking responsibility. This provides an opportunity to all the parties, such as the community, offenders, and victims of the crime, on the needs and impacts of the crime (“Literature Review”, 2021). The process uses dialogues, circles, and conferences guided by a skilled individual with various forms depending on the situations and parties involved. The philosophy of the restorative justice system is based on understanding the crime as a violation of relationships and individuals. It focuses on maintaining inclusivity, empathy, and respect when delivering the program (“Literature Review”, 2021). The program is crucial in providing accountability, engagement, and creation of healing opportunities, rehabilitation, and compensation.

The program enables the parties involved to respond to the crime as they are central to the criminal justice process. The legal section and the government serve the role of being facilitators of the program. This program is crucial in handling physical injuries and relational, mental, and social injuries. Whenever one party is not interested in the program’s involvement, various approaches are taken to ensure the beneficial results of fixing the harm (“Literature Review”, 2021). Accountability is enhanced through various methods such as reparative sentences, community service, and restitution. Offender and victim integration is addressed through spiritual, material, and emotional support/assistance. Restorative justice differs from the traditional criminal justice forum in several ways. Firstly, it measures the repair of the harm and prevention rather than the punishment inflicted. Secondly, it includes many parties when responding to the crime, and lastly, it views crime comprehensively rather than law-breaking. The following are the blocks in Restorative justice;

Victim, Offender, and Community Meetings

Meeting between the victim, offender, and the community is voluntary in addressing the crime dimensions and justice.

  • Victim Offender Mediation. In this process, the offender is allowed to meet the victim in a secure section and discuss the crime. The target of the mediation is to enable the offender to identify the impact of crime and take responsibility for the matter (“Literature Review”, 2021). This lowers the chances of an offender committing a similar crime even when released.
  • Community/Family Group Conferencing. The conference brings together all the participants together with the primary supporters to enable address the crime aftermath. The offender and the victim are connected with the community by making the crime convict take responsibility for the crime. This is attained through the involvement of key supporters whose focus is on shaping the offender’s behavior.
  • Peacemaking or Sentence Circles. In this process, a suitable sentencing plan is initiated through the judges, supporters, court, offenders, victims, defense counsel, victims and offender’s supporters, and prosecutors. The objective of the circle is to ensure satisfaction is attained in all the parties, thereby providing the offender with an opportunity for reform through the formation of constructive resolutions (“Literature Review”, 2021). The circle helps the offender understand the shared community values acceptable in society.

Repairing the Harm Caused

The end of Victim, offender, and community meetings are marked by an agreement on how the victim will be compensated. The following are the programs used:

  • Restitution. The victim is paid to compensate for the losses, which makes the offender accountable for the crime. Restitution is determined by either the circle or the judge, making the victim satisfied with the justice process.
  • Community Service. The offender is tasked with a community work service to benefit the community. This addresses the harm experienced by the community whenever a crime is encountered (“Literature Review”, 2021). The purpose of community service is for rehabilitation and to provide an easy transition to the community.


OJJDP is the national coordination that focuses on preventing and handling youth criminal behavior and victimization. The program helps the national, local, and community create effective and fair juvenile justice systems that empower youth safety and productivity in the community (“About OJJDP”, 2021). It ensures that the programs created benefit the juveniles through crime prevention and developing programs that inhibit them from becoming crime victims. The program was introduced in 1974 following the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The federal law ensures that the program follows specific procedures to protect the juveniles. For example, it is required for a juvenile to be jailed in a juvenile facility (“About OJJDP”, 2021). In cases where the juvenile facility is not applicable, the youth is jailed separately in the adult facility.

The primary purpose of the OJJDP is best explained by its vision; the OJJDP office ensures that the juveniles are kept healthy, educated, and unexposed to any form of violence. Whenever they are in juvenile systems, they are treated fairly to benefit their growth. The roles of the OJJDP include, firstly, the creation of nationwide guidance that aids in preventing and handling juvenile crimes. Secondly, the creation of protocols that aid in preventing juvenile victimization (“About OJJDP”, 2021). Thirdly, providing support to the community helps in juvenile program interventions and crime prevention. Fourthly, promoting the juvenile system is significant in creating crime accountability and promoting juvenile rehabilitation. Fifthly, establishing control for juvenile offenders who appear to be chronic and violent threatens the community’s safety. This involves using secure facilities and waivers where necessary for chronic and violent juveniles.

Model Programs Initiative

Several juvenile restorative programs focus on determining the need and requirements of every jurisdiction. The program goals include; making the juvenile accountable for their actions, promoting juvenile safety and satisfaction, repairing the harm caused, and creating empathy (“Literature Review”, 2021). The restorative justice model has several programs; however, these models share the same features.

Family Group Conferences

The program model involves the group that was directly impacted by the outcome of the crime. These groups include the victim and the involved youth taken to a conference to analyze the crime outcomes and make conclusions regarding crime accountability. The focus of this conference is to enable the youth to identify their mistakes and learn from them.

Victim Offender Mediation

The program enables the youth to meet the victim of the crime in a safe zone where negotiations and problem-solving are done. The target is to allow the youth to be accountable for the behavior and develop various plans for amendments with the victim (“Literature Review”, 2021). The program focuses on developing empathy for the juvenile to prevent future occurrences of the crime.

Victim Impact Panels, Victim Awareness Classes, and Community Reparative Boards

The crime convict is involved in crime awareness to enable the individual to understand the crime’s impact. Personal contacts are not involved between the two groups; however, surrogate victims and families with similar experiences are used to explain the incident (“Literature Review”, 2021). The aim of the panel is to individualize the youth on crime consequences.

Circle Sentencing

Circle sentencing is talking circles where criminal behavior is addressed involving communities, families, and victims. The circle usually includes a facilitator, social service personnel (judges, lawyers, and police officers), crime victims, and community residents.

School-Based Restorative Justice

Various schools have adopted this model in handling school-based juvenile problem behaviors. The main target of the school-based justice system is to reduce the suspension and expulsion of the students. This program helps in encouraging the student to be part of restorative justice rather than being isolated from the program (“Literature Review”, 2021). This program enables the students to change behavior by encouraging student participation, reducing the fear of punishment.

Model Program

School-Based Restorative Justice

Schools form a basis for the psychosocial development of the youths. The primary developmental processes include socialization, future planning, skills, interpersonal interaction, value exploration, and intellectual development (Wilson et al., 2017). These aspects are developed as the youths attend classes and build good relationships with their peers, teachers, and other school members (United Nation, 2020). The developmental dynamic is intertwined with socialization, learning, and interpersonal dynamic involving how the youths perceive themselves (Wilson et al., 2017). The youths get informed regarding who they are, what is expected of them, civic responsibilities, and values through behavior response and interpersonal interaction that has resulted in drug usage. School-based restorative justice has taken a U-turn for the last few decades (United Nation, 2020). This program addresses various problems in school involving substance use, violence, and conflict. However, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, conferences, and circle sentencing have not been effective, leading to struggles among the youth, especially when facing substance abuse problems.

The school-based restorative justice focuses on personal interactions with main program elements involving conferences and circles. These programs within the school-based restorative justice system focus on involving the community and developing a reparation system to address substance abuse. The program highlight the supremacy of interaction and interpersonal communication in nurturing sharing, honesty, and open listening (Wilson et al., 2017). The program application in school is significant in eliminating discipline methods that involve exclusivities such as expulsion and suspension. The program replaces such processes with discussion forums that aim to understand the student’s behavior and factors that led to substance abuse. This makes the school focus on other issues such as students’ absenteeism because of family duties and community violence. The building blocks of this program are focused on healing, relations, inclusivity, restoring, and community (Wilson et al., 2017). Despite the program focusing on the students’ response in school setup through building trust among peers, administrators, teachers, and staff, the program is also crucial in reframing and rebuilding the community. This program has become an antidote to the zero-tolerance discipline that has failed.

The school-based restorative justice model differs from one school to another but with similar goals and targets. The model usually considers the identification of the need that is then solved by choosing an appropriate intervention method. The program supports a healthy relationship through the involvement of relevant stakeholders (United Nation, 2020). Many schools implement the school-based restorative program by applying of human rights framework. This encourages the students to participate voluntarily in school as well as in the community. The program ensures that the youths are held accountable for their mistakes, such as substance abuse.

Program Effectiveness

The school-based restorative program has a tremendous positive impact on the education system. The program has enhanced the school climate, increased the youths’ performance in school, and reduced violence that results from substance abuse, improving students’ engagement at home and in the community (Woods & Stewart, 2018). Furthermore, the relationship between the parents and the students has also been positively altered. Many cases that result from substance abuse have decreased because of the introduction of the restorative school-based program.

The racial bias that leads to increased substance abuse usage among blacks has dramatically been reduced as students engage actively in the program model, giving out the real-life experience that makes them associate with such activities. The improvement of the relationship between the student and the teachers has also encouraged the students’ performance in this model as they are more than willing to share their experiences on substance abuse (Woods & Stewart, 2018). It is noted that most behavior change, especially substance abuse, is because of the lack of connection between the youth and the community. Through the school-based restorative justice program, the students are reconnected with the community, parents, and teachers, enabling them to provide feedback whenever they face substance abuse temptations.

The implementation of school-based restorative justice focuses on lowering suspension rates because of crimes such as violence and substance abuse and the importance of avoiding substance abuse among the youths. This change alters the students’ performance as substance abuse affects their consciousness, making it hard to understand school work (Woods & Stewart, 2018). The principles of school-based restorative justice extend its focus on promoting moral education among the youths. Many youths who use drugs have difficulty managing their morals and values as they are emotionally driven by the substances they take. The program has eradicated the deficit thinking in most students, making them perceive things differently than before (Woods & Stewart, 2018). These views include crime perception and response towards the crime, as most youths believe that such a life cannot be forgotten. The model has changed how the youths perceive crime making it easy to reduce substance use.

The model addresses various factors involving the environment and individuals that make one vulnerable to drug use. These factors addressed include a family perception regarding substance use, peer pressure, and low self-esteem. The program model addresses these factors and provides enlightenment on favorable conditions that will enable one to handle such situations (United Nation, 2020). This includes emotional competency, community support, teachers support, and engagement. This method greatly enhanced the need to understand that incarceration of youths is not an effective method for handling problems such as substance abuse because some issues require behavioral intervention, mental health interventions, and guidance (United Nation, 2020). The program model helps create positive outcomes that help every member in school by providing equal chances for rehabilitation and development in all the groups in society.


I selected the topic of substance abuse in youth because many youths have been affected by drugs. Most of them got involved in drugs because of various reasons such as peers, environment, financial situations, emotional problems, and coping. Students have different backgrounds, and some can solve problems effectively compared to others. Engaging in drug rings should not be taken as law-breaking but should be perceived as a disease that requires suitable intervention. I have friends who got involved in the matter because of the home situation, and some would use alcohol to relieve the bad feelings they are experiencing.

Schools do not necessarily engage in identifying the factors that led to students’ drug exposure. It’s perceived as indiscipline without analyzing the situation and how the issue could be resolved from happening in the future. Many youths have poor performance in school because of drug use, and most of them become addicted to the drugs. Many students want to stop using the drugs but lack proper intervention that will enable them to quit the habit. At one time, I was involved in a drug ring with my peers without knowing what they were using. Substance abuse, especially marijuana, has dramatically expanded in that some baked food with marijuana to avoid being recognized.

The youths require support rather than punishments that victimize them. It is crucial to engage the youth in all aspects as they are the future generation, and if proper intervention is not considered, problems will emanate later in life. Furthermore, the youths are very delicate as many youths tend to explore many things, including substance abuse. This creates superiority and inferiority forms where those who use drugs consider themselves superior, and this misinformation has to be eliminated with proper measures.


About OJJDP | Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2021).

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Liddell, J., & Burnette, C. (2017). Culturally-informed interventions for substance abuse among indigenous youth in the United States: A Review. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 14(5), 329-359.

Literature Review: Restorative Justice for Juveniles | Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2021).

Sharp, A., Young, M., & Moore, K. (2019). Relationship between substance use, bullying, and other delinquent behaviors among high school students: a secondary analysis of the Florida youth substance abuse survey. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 46(4), 570-585.

Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents – Children’s Health Issues – MSD Manual Consumer Version. MSD Manual Consumer Version. (2020).

United Nation. (2020). Restorative Justice Programmes (2nd ed.). United Nation.

Wilson, D., Olaghere, A., & Kimbrell, C. (2017). Effectiveness of Restorative Justice Principles in Juvenile Justice: A Meta-Analysis.

Woods, C., & Stewart, M. (2018). Restorative justice: a framework for examining issues of discipline in schools serving diverse populations. The International Journal of Restorative Justice, 1(1), 81-95.