markedly since the 1980s. More than 220,000 juveniles were arrested for drug offenses in 1997, representing an 82 percent increase since 1993. In about 15 percent of all juvenile arrests in 1997, the most serious charge was a drug abuse violation, a liquor law violation, drunkenness, or driving under the influence. Between 1993 and 1997, the juvenile arrest rate for drug abuse violations (arrests per 100,000 juveniles ages 10–17) increased more than 70 percent. A similar pattern can be seen for curfew and loitering violations.
Most juvenile drug arrestees are processed in juvenile court (Stahl, 1999). Drug delinquency arrests processed in juvenile court (176,300) rose 143 percent between 1992 and 1996. Of these cases, delinquency petitions were filed in 109,500 (62 percent). About 60 percent of these drug delinquency petitions resulted in findings of delinquency (the juvenile-court equivalent of a “conviction”) and about 25 percent of the delinquent offenders were placed in a residential facility.
The enforcement of sanctions against juveniles merits special attention for several reasons. First, preventing youths from initiating drug use or becoming regular users is one of the central goals of national drug policy. Second, youths are subject to a stronger and more diverse array of antidrug sanctions and controls than any other group in the population. The key policy question is whether the incremental preventive effect of enforcing these sanctions is sufficient to offset the costs of imposing them, including their counterproductive effects on the life prospects of young offenders (National Research Council, 2001).
In Chapter 8, the committee addresses the effects of enforcing sanctions against apprehended users on their subsequent drug use, concentrating particularly on the utility of intervention as an instrument of therapeutic leverage. In this section, however, we are interested in how prescribing and enforcing sanctions against drug users may function, at the population level, as an instrument of primary prevention. Sanctions against users may depress prevalence in two ways: by expressing social norms against drug use (declarative effects) and by dissuading people from using drugs due to fear of being apprehended and punished (deterrent effects).
Laws against drug use may generate declarative effects by expressing social disapproval of drug use and thereby symbolizing and reinforcing social norms against drug use and helping to shape individual beliefs and