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Community Contribution

Empowering Drug Abusing Juveniles in Conflict with the Law


The problem of drug abuse among Indian youth has been increasing over the years. Not only has the problem grown in magnitude, the profile of users now includes children below 10 years. Adolescent drug abusing boys, in conflict with law, are sent by the Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) for treatment and rehabilitation to the Juvenile Drug De-addiction and Rehab Centre (JDC) in Delhi, for a period of 90 days. The non-governmental organization SPYM (Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses) has been actively working in the area of prevention and treatment of substance abuse for the past three decades. However, work of the organization had been with adults not necessarily involved in criminal activities. Using their experience, this centre was started to adapt the approach in the context of drug abusing adolescents involved in anti-social activities.

A project in 2012 was started to help the juveniles treat this 3-month period as an opportunity to improve themselves through reflection, literacy, and life skills development using the 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health) model of experiential learning for youth development. It was expected that the learning would help to replicate and up scale the model in similar situations with more partners coming forth to take the process forward. Thus, a curriculum and teaching–learning materials were developed. (AA). Key assumptions of juvenile drug addiction treatment include the understanding that: 

  • a juvenile cannot be effectively treated in isolation; 
  • each course requires local cultural adaptation;
  • a “systems approach” to managing juvenile addiction is needed; 
  • every juvenile’s health and safety in treatment must be protected; delivering effective treatment may mean redefining “family”; and 
  • drug use and trauma are often related and must be addressed.

Adapting a previous approach that took these assumptions into consideration resulted in over 80 boys opting to continue staying in the program as ‘volunteers’. Currently, over 25 of those in-recovery are working with the organization. They become role models and peer educators.


This case study was submitted as part of USAID's CLA Case Competition, held in August 2015. Taken together, this collection of submissions illustrates the diversity of ways collaborating, learning, and adapting approaches are being operationalized in the field. Stringent judging criteria was used to determine official CLA Case Competition winners, so not all submissions should be considered an official USAID endorsement of best practice. To view all entries, visit the CLA Case Competition page.

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