Substance use and treatment seeking in young offenders on community orders

Christopher John Lennings*, Dianna T. Kenny, Paul Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Both international and Australian studies reveal very low rates of treatment utilization for substance abuse among young offenders despite very high problematic rates of substance abuse among this group. The current study reports on substance use patterns of a representative sample of 712 young offenders serving community orders with the New South Wales Department of Juvenile Justice (Australia) and their history of and attitudes toward treatment. Most (87%) young offenders had used marijuana, and 47% had used amphetamines in the last 12 months. One third of the sample reported problematic use of alcohol (being drunk at least weekly, on average). Forty-three percent reported that they engaged in crime to maintain their substance use. On the substance abuse scale of the Adolescent Psychopathology Scale-Short Form, 36.4% of the sample fell into the moderate to severe problem range. Despite such problems, treatment motivation was poor: 10% reported willingness to access treatment for their drug problems. Eighteen percent reported accessing some form of treatment in the past; the most common form of help seeking was approaching their family (12%). Self-reported access to other drug treatments was even lower, with the more intensive treatments revealing low rates of treatment completion. Despite almost 40% of the sample revealing significant substance abuse problems, referral for treatment was also low, with only 18% of the sample being offered an appointment with juvenile justice drug and alcohol workers. This study reveals the gap between awareness of problematic drug use and treatment-seeking behavior, and has implications for improving outreach to young offenders with substance abuse problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-432
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Substance abuse
  • Treatment access
  • Young offenders


Dive into the research topics of 'Substance use and treatment seeking in young offenders on community orders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this