Arizona Leads the Nation in Youth Binge Drinking and Drug Use; Mesa Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses Recent CDC Survey Results

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Recent CDC survey reveals alarming statistics in Arizona related to drug and alcohol use by minors and high school students. James Novak, a Mesa criminal defense attorney and former Maricopa County prosecutor, discusses findings, causes, prevention, and criminal liability that results from these risky behaviors.

With the potential life-long impact of these risky actions for our youth, it is in our best interest to make certain they understand the consequences of their actions before engaging in risky behavior.

Prevention (CDC), released a report titled "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2011." Disturbing statistics revealed the youth of Arizona ranked among the highest in the nation for alcohol use, binge drinking, cocaine use, and access to drugs at school. The Arizona high schools surveyed in the report ranked #1 for alcohol use and binge drinking, and #2 for cocaine use and drinking alcohol on school property.

One of the most alarming statistics according to James E. Novak, a Mesa drug defense attorney, was the sheer accessibility an Arizona high school student had to drugs – Arizona ranked #1 for students who were offered, sold, or given drugs at school. The CDC study mentioned several reasons for this, including ease of access to a parent's illegal or prescription drugs, and proximity to the Mexico border where there are high volumes of documented drug trafficking. To address these figures, Novak suggested, "Schools will need to focus on safety, monitoring, and security on campus grounds."

Arizona fell within the top seven states in the nation for drug use by youth in the following categories:

  •     Marijuana use
  •     Marijuana use on school property
  •     Use of inhalants
  •     Heroin use
  •     Methamphetamine use
  •     Use of steroids without a prescription

Novak weighed in on these new rankings. "These figures are disturbing, and are dangerous to youth and our society. They should raise awareness and compel us to focus more on this age group. To make sure schools and society are safe, we need to increase efforts in education, prevention, treatment, and law enforcement."

Some of the specific causes attributed to the increase in youth risky behavior by the CDC study include peer pressure, depression, low self-esteem, and lack of counseling regarding the hazards of these actions. Novak further observed, "The problem crosses over different socio-economic lines, races, and genders. The conclusions of the CDC study reveal that alcohol and drug use is also inherent in both rural and urban high schools."

Penalties for delinquent acts in Arizona, such as drug use and underage consumption of alcohol, can range in severity. A young adult could potentially face community service, heavy fines, probation or even detention. Underage drinking DUI convictions will additionally result in a two-year loss or denial of a driver's license. "Not only do young adults have to deal with the legal consequences for their actions if they are caught by law enforcement, they also put themselves at risk for injury or even death," Novak explained.

Novak noted that the consequences of a delinquent act could also have severe, life-long repercussions. "With the potential life-long impact of these risky actions for our youth, it is in our best interest to make certain they understand the consequences of their actions before engaging in risky behavior," said Novak. "We need to shift our focus towards more effective communication, education, counseling and supervision."

As a Tempe criminal defense attorney, Novak has a deep understanding of Arizona's criminal processes for both youth and adults. He commented, "Our criminal justice system should focus on more than just punishment for criminal behavior. Criminal penalties for illegal drug and alcohol related convictions must include education, counseling, treatment, and redirection to good behavior."

The CDC report recommended the need for continued monitoring of these high-risk behaviors among high school students at the state and national levels. It also stated that collecting data and distributing it would help identify priority high-risk behaviors to protect and promote the health and safety of the nation's youth.

"This problem was not created by one entity, and can't be corrected by one entity. The best way to combat it is to address it on different levels, and combine efforts beginning at home, schools, communities and through law enforcement efforts. Students instilled with a sense of confidence, awareness, and accountability are less likely to follow these high-risk behaviors," concluded Novak.

The Law Office of James E. Novak, PLLC is a criminal defense firm in Tempe, AZ. James Novak, Attorney at Law, is also as former Maricopa County criminal prosecutor. He holds a Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master Degree in Psychology and Counseling, Bachelor of Engineering, and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). James Novak defends criminal charges in the Greater Phoenix Metro area and East Valley cities of Maricopa County. This includes Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and the surrounding areas.

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