Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Substance Use and Criminality among Juveniles-under-Enquiry in New Delhi

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Substance Use and Criminality among Juveniles-under-Enquiry in New Delhi

Article excerpt

Byline: Shridhar. Sharma, Gautam. Sharma, Bristi. Barkataki

Background: There is an intimate relationship between drugs and criminal behavior. The drug–violence relationship is further complicated by intoxicating doses and/or withdrawal effects of specific drugs. Understanding this relationship is important for both healthcare workers and policy makers. Materials and Methods: The study was conducted in Prayas observation home for boys, a short stay home for juveniles-under-enquiry in New Delhi. The present study aims to correlate substance use and criminal behavior by investigating the sociodemographic characteristics and the current trend of substance use among juveniles in New Delhi. In this study, 487 detained juveniles aged between 8 and 18 years were included. The information was obtained by face-to-face semi-structured interviews and juvenile case records maintained by the juvenile home. Results: Out of 487 juveniles-under-enquiry booked under different crimes, 86.44% of the sample had a history of substance use. Consumption of tobacco and cannabis were higher when compared to other drugs. Consumption of psychotropic drugs though relatively lesser was related with more serious crimes. There is an increasing trend in serious crimes such as rape, murder/attempt to murder, and burglary committed by juveniles. Drug-crime correlation has been noted among consumption of cannabis with murder, inhalants with rape and opioids with snatching-related crimes. Conclusion: Substance use and criminal behavior are clearly interrelated. Greater the involvement in substance abuse, more severe is the violence and criminality. This paper highlights this complex relationship and suggests possible scope of interventions.

Introduction

There is an intimate relationship between substance use and criminal behavior. At times, the relationship among the two can be murky and confounding. Drugs can have both direct and indirect effects on violence and criminal behavior. The drug–violence relationship is further complicated by intoxicating doses and/or withdrawal effects of specific drugs. According to the UNICEF estimates of 2002, at least 100 million children live in the streets world over with India indicative of the largest number of street children in the world. The WHO estimates that about 90% of these street children misuse some kind of substance. Globally, the problem emerges as a significant public health threat to world's 30–100 million street children.[sup][1] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that there are 22.3 million uprooted people. An estimated 10 million are children under the age of 18. South Asia is the home to 584 million children of which 330 million are living in poverty with poor access to social, educational, and health sectors.[sup][2] These children are visible everywhere-selling trinkets, picking rags, polishing shoes, working in vehicle repair shops, or serving food in roadside restaurants. The national capital of India, Delhi, with a population of over 16 million has approximately 100,000 street children, and substance use is reported as a major health problem in this segment of population.[sup][3],[4] There are no reliable data associating substance use and criminality among the juveniles in Delhi. Understanding this relationship is essential for both healthcare workers and policy makers.

Considering the trends of substance use in India, inhalant use is comparatively recent, comprising a few case reports;[sup][5],[6],[7] however, substance use by Indian children has been documented for more than a decade now. Benegal et al .[sup][8] assessed 281 children and reported 197 children as users of illicit substances out of which 76% were smoking tobacco, 45.9% were chewing it, 48% were using inhalants, 42% were using alcohol, 15.7% were into cannabis addiction, and 2% opioids. In the National Household survey of drug use, Ray [sup][9] surveyed 40,697 males comprising 8,587 children in the age group of 12–18 years where 3. …

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