News Release

08.03.2023 | News Release

SANDAG Report: 75% of Juvenile Arrestees Surveyed Reported Vaping in School in 2022 


When the youth were asked if they had participated in any types of risky behaviors related to substance use in the past 12 months, the most frequent behaviors they reported included riding in a car with a driver who had used alcohol/drugs (52%) and going to school intoxicated (52%).

Nearly all (96%) juveniles interviewed reported ever trying at least one illicit substance and 59% tried all three gateway drugs: marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco. Many of these juveniles reported started using marijuana and alcohol around the age of 12.

Marijuana (93%) and alcohol (86%) were the substances most frequently tried among juvenile arrestees. When asked how they obtained alcohol, most of them said someone 21 years or older gave it to them or they took it from home or someone else’s home.

“The results in this report are concerning because we continue to see high levels of substance use among juvenile arrestees,” said SANDAG Principal Criminal Justice Researcher Octavio Rodriguez. “While the efforts to help youth avoid entering the justice system are positive, we need to continue to address the underlying risk factors related to substance use among youth.”

In addition to using illicit drugs, just under half (48%) of juvenile arrestees reported ever abusing prescription or over-the-counter drugs, compared to 36% in 2021. According to those surveyed, tranquilizers (e.g., Xanax, Valium, Rohypnol/Roachas) were the most frequently abused prescription drugs. The most commonly abused prescription painkiller was Percocet. Youth who abused prescription and over-the-counter drugs were significantly more likely to have tried other illicit drugs including LSD, hallucinogens, powder cocaine, meth, and ecstasy.

The SANDAG report included other notable highlights:

  • 51% of the juvenile arrestees reported parental substance use.
  • 38% reported being involved in drug distribution activities.
  • 13% reported having experienced a drug overdose.

This Criminal Justice (CJ) Bulletin is the second in a four-part series presenting Substance Abuse Monitoring data collected from both juveniles and adults. This bulletin includes information about lifetime and recent self-reported drug use, perceived risk and availability of different drugs, characteristics of the youth interviewed, and how these factors may be related to drug use.

Since 2000, SANDAG has conducted interviews in local detention facilities through its Substance Abuse Monitoring program. The program helps identify drug use trends among adult and juvenile offender populations to help inform prevention strategies for the San Diego region.

For this study, 42 youths from East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility and an additional 14 from the San Diego Achievement Centers were interviewed.