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Girls In Juvenile Hall Report Higher Drug Use Than Boys

Evening Edition

Aired 8/6/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Girls In Juvenile Hall Report Higher Drug Use Than Boys.

Transcript

Aired 7/31/13 on KPBS News.

Girls abuse drugs at substantially higher rates than boys, according to a new report that analyzed juvenile arrestee drug use in San Diego County.

Girls abuse drugs at substantially higher rates than boys, according to a new report by the SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Division that analyzed juvenile arrestee drug use in San Diego County.

Highlights of the SANDAG Report

  • 64 percent of the girls interviewed for the study reported that their families had prior involvement with Child Protective Services, compared to 15 percent of the boys.
  • 76 percent of the girls reported having run away from home, compared to 41 percent of the boys.
  • Girls were significantly more likely than boys to report using alcohol at an earlier age. The average age of first alcohol use is 11.8 for girls and 12.9 for boys.
  • Girls were significantly more likely than boys to have tried methamphetamine (56% vs. 21%); ecstasy (60% vs. 27%); LSD (28% vs. 7%); and spice (76% vs. 45%).
  • Girls also were significantly more likely than boys to have missed school due to drug use (50% vs. 16%).

Girls make up a smaller percentage of juvenile hall offenders, but they’re far more likely than boys to enter the system with greater underlying issues such as mental health, victimization and substance abuse.

Many girls enter the juvenile hall system with a status offense such as a truancy or running away, according to the report.

"Their behavior, which is associated with other risk factors, may be abuse in the home, parental substance abuse, or other things that could be putting them on a trajectory for increased risk later in life," said Cynthia Burke, director of applied research at SANDAG.

More than 60 percent of the girls interviewed for the study reported that their families had prior involvement with Child Protective Services, compared to 15 percent of the boys.

"Running away from home is a status offense and a status offense is a crime that only a juvenile can be arrested for," Burke said. "We found that 76 percent of girls said they had run away from home in the past, compared to 41 percent of the boys."

Another gender difference among juvenile arrestees is the the average age of first alcohol consumption. For girls, it's 11.8 years. Boys average 12.9 years.

“We found that the girls were trying alcohol at an earlier age than the boys and they were also significantly more likely to report that they had ever tried meth, ecstasy, spice, as well as LSD,” Burke said.

SANDAG

Nearly all of the juveniles interviewed, 96 percent, reported using at least one drug in their lifetime, and 88 percent said they had used a substance during the past year.

Girls are also more likely than boys to have missed school because of drug use, according to the report.

Burke said the study highlights the importance of having gender-appropriate intervention programs to address the underlying needs of girls.

As part of the study, a total of 124 youths were interviewed at San Diego County Juvenile Hall in March and September of 2012, according to SANDAG. Ninety-seven percent of the youth provided a urine sample for drug testing purposes.

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