Drug use among youth booked into Juvenile Hall dropped dramatically last year, with 44 percent of those interviewed testing positive for an illicit substance, a decrease of 13 percent from 2015, according to a report released Friday by the San Diego Association of Governments.
The portion that tested positive for any drug was the lowest in 17 years, according to the report, which was based on interviews with 112 young arrestees, 106 of whom submitted urine samples.
Just 35 percent of them tested positive for marijuana in 2016, the lowest rate since 2000, according to SANDAG. In 2015, 52 percent tested positive for marijuana.
“While it is good news that the percent positive for any drugs was down in 2016, it’s important to note that this rate is driven by the percent positive for marijuana, as it is the most commonly used illicit drug by youth,” said SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Cynthia Burke. “However, the percent who were positive for methamphetamine was up to 14 percent in 2016, from 8 percent in 2015.”
One percent of the youth tested positive for cocaine, down from 2 percent in 2015, and 3 percent were positive for opiates, up from 1 percent the year before.
Among other findings:
— 96 percent of those interviewed said it was easy, or very easy, to obtain marijuana;
— around one-quarter felt that marijuana was bad for them, compared to 44 percent for alcohol and 65 percent for cigarettes;
— 92 percent had tried an illicit substance in the past, a group that included alcohol and tobacco, with 79 percent doing so within the last 30 days;
— 42 percent abused prescription or over-the-counter drugs last year, compared to 50 percent the year before, while those who felt they were very easy to obtain fell from 29 percent to 10 percent; and
— 27 percent reported having tried the synthetic drug spice, down from 48 percent in 2015, which 93 percent now considered the marijuana alternative to be bad or very bad.
In her report, Burke acknowledged the results may have been affected by a decline in the juvenile arrest rate. Combined with an effort to find alternatives to jailing youngsters, the number of bookings in Juvenile Hall fell 23 percent from 2013 to 2015, to about 3,700.
—City News Service
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