Developmental Trajectories of Opioid Use Among Juvenile Offenders: An Epidemiological Examination of Group Characteristics and Criminological Risk Factors [2019]

Aims: Investigate patterns of change and continuity in opioid use among juvenile offenders during adolescence and early adulthood. Identify demographic characteristics of trajectory groups of opioid users. Examine the relevance of risk factors for predicting assignment to opioid use trajectory groups.

Methods: The Pathways to Desistance sample, consisting of longitudinal data of 1,134 juvenile offenders, was utilized in analyses. Using group-based trajectory modeling, patterns of opioid use were identified. χ2 tests provide information about the significant differences in gender, race, and socioeconomic status composition among the subgroups. Multinomial logistic regression were estimated to identify the relevance of risk factors for predicting assignment to subgroups.

Results: A four-group model best fit the opioid use data (Abstaining, Low Accelerating, High Accelerating, Desisting). Race significantly delineated group membership at the bivariate level. Risk factor analysis indicated that lower self-control assessed at baseline predicted elevated risk of assignment to the Low Accelerating and High Accelerating groups. Higher frequency of marijuana use at baseline and a lifetime history of having experienced victimization was associated with assignment to the Desisting group.

Conclusions: Chronic opioid use exists at elevated prevalence among juvenile offenders. Adolescents in the criminal justice system with low self-control should be targeted for intervention.

Thomas W. Wojciechowski
Substance Use & Misuse, 15 Feb 2019