Why “tough love” may not be the answer for teens and drugs

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Juvenile Criminal Defense |

Many parents instinctively reach for a “tough love” solution when their teens are charged with drug crimes. They believe allowing them to face penalties will ensure they learn from their errors. But when it could lead to a possible drug conviction, this approach can backfire.

Court-ordered consequences address criminal offenses — not the root cause of them. Addiction, mental health and past trauma often play a role in teen drug use. Locking troubled juveniles away does not address these issues and could even make them worse.

The many detriments of incarceration for youths

Contrary to common thought, putting teens behind bars for drug offenses may not “scare them straight.” Some research shows that incarceration, even in a juvenile center, is not an effective deterrent against future unlawful conduct. Here are three other reasons to think twice about letting your teen face the storm unprotected.

They’re breeding grounds for trouble. Jails can be rough environments. Exposure to violence and abuse can worsen mental health issues and increase the risk of depression and suicide in teens.

Isolation worsens existing issues. Separation from family and friends intensifies feelings of loneliness and isolation, making it harder for teens to heal.

It creates long-term baggage to carry. Dragging a criminal record around usually plagues teens for years, limiting their opportunities for education, employment and housing. Many universities and employers routinely reject applicants with a criminal record.

There may be a better way

By getting experienced legal guidance, you can explore other possibilities. Alternatives like drug court or diversion programs can spare your teen from exposure to the corrections system, leaving a pathway to a stable, healthy future wide open. It may also be possible to get the charges dropped.


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