Among 487 juveniles aged between eight and 18 years at the Prayas observation home for boys, 88.64 per cent of them had a history of substance abuse, according to a recent study. The study goes on to show that substance abuse and criminal behaviour are not only interconnected, but also how the severity of the crime was directly proportional to the level of involvement in substance abuse.
The study observes that most of the juveniles came from “low socio-economic backgrounds and poverty-stricken areas where economic stability takes precedence over emotional stability”, and they are often victims of abuse and neglect.
Of all the substances consumed by the juveniles, consumption of tobacco and cannabis were relatively higher with 25.6 per cent and 17 per cent juveniles using them respectively, as compared to consumption of alcohol (15.8 per cent), opioids (13.3 per cent), and inhalants (10.06 per cent). Only 4.5 per cent juveniles said they consumed psychotropic drugs.
The study notes that “in terms of the connection between drugs and nature of crime, the use of solvents/inhalants such as typewriter thinners/whiteners were reported to be higher (16.2%) among the juveniles convicted of rape when compared to other crimes”.
Similarly, cannabis intake was found to be high (35.2 per cent) among juveniles convicted for murder-related crimes, and consumption of opioids/heroin among those juveniles involved in mugging and snatching related crimes.
The nature of drug abuse was also seen to be connected with age, with the initiation to opioids starting at the ages of 8-12 years (21.6 per cent), while the “heavy use of inhalants” (12.6 per cent) was reported to have begun at 13-14 years. Similarly, the study notes that cannabis use began at the age of 15-16 years (20.2 per cent), while use of alcohol and psychotropic drugs (17.9 per cent) started at the age of 17-18 years.
The study shows that burglary was the most common crime committed by juveniles (66.73 per cent). This was followed by murder/attempt to murder (11.9 per cent), rape (11 per cent) and snatching-related crimes (3.5 per cent).