10.19.2022 | News Release

Ahead of National Red Ribbon week, October 23-31, SANDAG has released a new report, the 2021 Juvenile Arrestee Drug Use in the San Diego Region, that examines drug use among juvenile arrestees.

Findings show that in 2021, nearly all (95%) of the juveniles reported ever trying an illicit substance. In addition, two-thirds (62%) reported having tried all three gateway drugs (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana).

The youth surveyed were asked about their perception and use of various drugs, and the study found that over time, a greater percentage of those interviewed reported that marijuana was the first drug they ever tried in 2021 (74%), up from 46% in 2020.

Only 11% perceived that marijuana could be “extremely” or “very bad” for a user, compared to 49% for alcohol and 61% for tobacco. Of those juveniles who ever tried marijuana, first use was around the age of 12.

“This report is intended to support public agencies and the community across the region gain a better understanding of drug usage trends among juveniles,” said SANDAG Senior Director of Data Science Dr. Cynthia Burke. “Most youth learn about drugs through friends and the internet. As the region prepares for Red Ribbon week, we hope this data facilitates open conversations among parents, legal guardians ,teachers and children about the dangers associated with drug use.”

Other notable highlights among juveniles booked in 2021 include:

  • 5% of youth tested positive for cocaine/crack, an increase from the 2% in 2020.
  • 36% of youth reported abusing prescription drugs
  • 49% of youth reported ever running away from home, 42% said their family had prior contact with the Child Welfare System, and 78% had a history of truancy
  • 31% have been diagnosed with mental health issues and 20% have thought about killing themselves
  • More than four-fifths (87%) have ever vaped and two-thirds (65%) of these youth have vaped at school
  • The most common substances vaped included flavored nicotine (93%), followed by marijuana/THC (80%)

To learn more, view the SANDAG CJ Bulletin. For a full breakdown of the data collected, view SANDAG CJ Aggregate.

For media inquiries, please contact Jessica Gonzales at 619.699.1950 or jessica.gonzales@sandag.org