Adolescent Drug And Alcohol Use

Written by: Katrina Morgan, Sarah Lytle, and Jeff Green

There are many reasons why adolescents initially start using drugs and alcohol. The research regarding this topic suggests that peer influence is the strongest motivator of drug and alcohol use in teens. This is in keeping with Social Learning Theory. Much of the research regarding Social Learning Theory is credited to Albert Bandura. This theory deals with the ways that people learn from each other and through observation and interaction (Ormrod, 1999). This theory is discussed in many studies regarding teen drug and alcohol use.

When evaluating the factors that influence adolescent drug and alcohol use, there must be a common understanding of what is meant by influenced. Biddle, Bank, and Marlin (1980) define influence as occurring “whenever the behavior of a person is affected by the pressures of another.” Some factors that have been found to influence drug and alcohol use include demographics, attitudes, family, peers, school, value and behavior.

Initial Use of Drugs and/or Alcohol:
Galaif, Newcomb, Vega, and Krell’s (2007) study looked at research at a variety of measures for different ethnic groups that influence their drug use. The factors included are psychological distress, relationship to their family, relationship to school, law abidance, guilt, peer drug use, and adolescent drug use. The study was conduced with 2,534 adolescent males from low to moderate socioeconomic status in Florida. The data was collected over a three and a half year period. Beginning when they boys were at an average age of 11 and a half and ending when they were about 14 years old. This study found the main reason for initial and sustained drug use in all ethnic groups studied is initiated from distress and peer drug use. Only African Americans were found that over time peer drug use did not influence these males. The overall results of this study found that the risk influences were consistent over time in regards to drug use regardless of ethnic group association. The study suggests that once the emotional, behaviors, and primary relationship factors are recognized there can be intervention tactics put in place to help deter initial drug use.

The Effects of Parenting on the Development of Adolescent Alcohol Misuse: A Six-Wave Latent Growth Model:
Barnes et al. (2000) performed a case study using six waves of data that were analyzed. This data included interviews with 506 adolescents in the city of Buffalo. This case study focuses on the amount of influence that a parent has on adolescent alcohol misuse.The authors of the case study chose to use a conceptual model of the development of adolescent alcohol misuse called the family socialization theory. In this model, children learn social behaviors, including drinking behaviors, during the socialization process by ongoing interactions with significant others-initially with parents and subsequently with adolescent peers, who become increasingly influential during later adolescence.The authors hypothesized that high parental support would increase adolescents' receptivity to parental monitoring, which in turn would result in a decreased likelihood of adolescents' initiating alcohol misuse and a depressed trajectory in the pattern of alcohol misuse throughout the course of adolescence. A six-wave longitudinal study of family influences on the development of adolescent alcohol misuse was begun in 1989, and the respondants were interviewed at yearly intervals through 1996. Adolescents were 13-16 years old at Wave 1 and 18-22 years old at Wave 6. Using a growth modeling longituinal approach, the authors found that parenting practices predict adolescents' initial drinking levels as well as their rates of increase in drinking behaviors.

"Other Teens Drink, but Not My Kid": Does Parental Awareness of Adolescent Alcohol Use Protect Adolescents from Risky Consequences?:
Bogenschneider et al. (1998) conducted a case study that focused primarily on parental behavior and their attempts to influence or change adolescents' behaviors related to the use of alcohol. This case study relies on two main theories. The individuation theory states that if the parent-child relationship transforms from one based on unilateral authority to one of interdependence and cooperative negotiation, adolescents still seek their parents advice, which allows continued parental guidance over their offspring's development. The social learning theory deals with the mechanisms through which parents and children reciprocally influence each other. The first hypothesis predicts that the majority of parents will be unaware of their adolescents' alcohol use and will be less likely to report this behavior for their own offspring rather than for their adolescents' close friends. The second hypothesis predicted that parents who are aware of their adolescents' alcohol use will have offspring who are less likely to report driving after drinking alcohol or riding with a teen who has been using alcohol. The third hypothesis states that there will be 10 factors that will differentiate parents who are unaware and aware of adolescent alcohol use. This study included only adolescents who reported regular alcohol use and their parents. Adolescents from grades 8-12 and their parents from three school districts in urban, suburban, and rural settings were used for the study. Students were given a 160 item questionnaire and their parents were asked to complete a parallel 131 item mail survey. This study found that all adolescents reported regular alcohol use, yet less than one third of parents were aware of their adolescents' drinking. Parental awareness of adolescent alcohol use served to protect adolescents by moderating the relation of parents responsiveness to episodes of drinking and driving. Aware parents were more likely than unaware parents to believe their adolescents' or their adolescents' close friends drink alcohol.

Demographic, Value, and Behavior:
Dembo, Schmeildler, and Koval (1976) conducted research to find out reasons why teens become marijuana users. The evidence suggested that adolescents become marijuana users based on their peer group’s attitudes toward marijuana and if their friends are users.

Demographics: There was not a major difference between the use of marijuana of males and females in this study. At the age of 17 was the largest difference between male and female users, and it was only 11 adolescents. There is no conclusion about the relationship between age and gender, although there is an increase in the rate of use with age.

Attitudes: Positive attitudes toward drug use and feeling that drug use should be legalized directly effect the amount of marijuana use. These adolescents do not see their drug use as a problem.

Family, Peers, and School: It is stated that many marijuana using adolescents indicated a “favoring of friends over family, lack of understanding with parents and disagreement with them in regard to appropriate behavior and choice of friends (Dembo, 1976).”

Value and Behavior: U.S. teens have shown an increase in the use of marijuana, which shows that the drug has become generally accepted among the adolescents in this study. Because of this, “it should not be surprising to find personal and friends’ use to be highly related (Dembo, 1976).” Adolescents that use marijuana are usually associated with other peers who use the drug.

Evidence in this study shows that the adolescents that said they use marijuana are more likely to be open to new experiences and more likely to do things that their friends are doing.

Prevalence rates, types of substances used, ages of initiation, and patterns of adolescent drug use vary within across ethnic samples (Brown, 2004). The prevalence rates show that drug uses has increased across all ethnic and racial youth groups (Galaif, 2007). Also according to Galaif adolescent drug use is positively correlated with peer drug use.

African American youth typically have lower levels of drug use when compared to white youth who reported to have the highest levels of drug use followed by Latinos (Galaif, 2007). This article goes on to say that African Americans tend to have a much later onset and progression to drug dependence later in life.

Latinos that were born not in the United States have a higher chance of drug use; this is attributed to acculturation (Galaif, 2007). Acculturation is when a student makes modifications to them individually as a result of a different culture (Acculturation, n.d.). Latinos adopt the behaviors of American born adolescents because they think these behaviors are culturally acceptable.

French vs American Adolescents:
In a study done by Kandel and Adler (1982), a sample of French teens was compared with a sample of American teens to see the different factors affecting marijuana use differed in the two countries. Even though there is a difference in the occurrence of marijuana use, there are similarities in the way teens are influenced to use the drug. The findings show that teens that use marijuana are less likely to go to church. Users are more likely to be absent from school, to have a positive attitude toward marijuana use, to be distant from their parents, and to be more peer oriented. Because the rate of marijuana use is more prevalent in the U.S. then in France, the percentage differences were greater in the U.S. sample. The research done in both countries show that the influence by peers is the greatest influence on adolescents to use marijuana.

Australian Adolescents:
Midford, Wilkes, and Young (2005) did a national survey in 1999 of the drug use in Australian secondary students. Their study found that the students indicated that 50% of 16 to 17 year olds have tried an illicit drug (mainly marijuana). Alcohol use among these students is extremely high. By the age of 14, 90% of the students have admitted to trying alcohol. The study goes on to say that by the age of 17, 55% are considered current drinkers. These statistics display that it is not rare for secondary students in Australia to use alcohol and other drugs. However, the laws on Australian youth is different that in the United States. Liquor laws vary by state, but it is legal to buy, drink or possess alcohol if over 18 on licensed premises. State laws also allow drinking or possessing alcohol on private premises for people under the age of 18 if under the supervision of an adult (Legal Drinking age, 2008).

In Australia
In the past, schools provide a drug education program to help eliminate drug and alcohol use with today’s youth. The programs have become more beneficial throughout the years. However, there is still an argument that these programs need to include and influence more at risk students. If these students are not included in the programs, research has showed that these programs implemented for intervention will lose their benefits over time.

Midford, Wilkes, and Young (2005) evaluated the In Touch training program. This program is designed to provide a professional learning environment to educate school staff on how to help inform them of their roles, identifying, manage and support students with problematic alcohol and other drug use. The study evaluates the impact of the program on the staff that participated in 2003. During the professional development four main areas of knowledge and skill development was covered. These include awareness, identification, helping skills, and management. The In Touch program has increased the schools that have implemented a school drug policy. The importance of the drug policy is to provide clear expectations of the students in regards to drug use. The main strength of the In Touch program is that it provided a unified change in the way that the staff members understood and dealt with the alcohol and other drug issues within their schools.

In Indiana
The article by Alter, Jun, and J-McKyer (2007) states that in Indiana there have been state wide efforts to reduce problems associated with youth substance abuse. There have been programs that are being implemented during after school hours in an effort to prevent the substance use issues. The study examines the relationship between the prevention activities that students are engaged in and if they participate in substance abuse. The programs offered include a variety of out of school activities which are as follows; after-school programs, summer programs, and extracurricular clubs. The research shows that student participation in these prevention activities in the non-school hours had a direct relation to a lowered probability that these students will participate in drug use.

Can Communities Assess Support for Preventing Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use? Reliabilty and Validity of a Community Assessment Inventory:
Bogenschneider and Mills (2001) conducted a study that examines the reliability and validity of The Youth Support Inventory for Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use (YSI), an assessment tool completed by local citizens in a coalition setting to identify local resources and supports related to adolescent alcohol use.The first theory is the ecological theory which views the individual within a complex system of relationships located in multiple levels of the social ecology. According to the second theory, ecological risk protective theory, it is important to assess the individual and the environment for risk and protective processes related to risky adolescent behaviors. The third theory is developemental contextualism which emphasizes that risk and protective processes may vary as youth mature and settings change. Lastly the community empowerment theory states that community members bring an intimate knowledge of their community that produces more accurate assessments and generates more appropriate solutions. The first hypothesis addresses the validity of the YSI in questioning whether communities with more support for youth and families would score higher on the YSI and lower on adolescent alcohol use. The second hypothesis states that by decreasing the number of questions on the YSI it would allow more time to discuss the remaining items and thus could result in a more accurate assessment. The study used 17 Wisconsin communities that selected adolescent alcohol and other drug use as their most important youth problem. All 17 communities completed the YSI. Each YSI had 55 items which were to be completed. In tests of validity more community support was associated with less adolescent alcohol use. Because the YSI was reduced from 55 to 40 items the inventory was more reliable.

Otto (1988) states that “the United States continues to have the highest rates of drug use by young people in the world’s industrialized nations. More than half of high school students try an illicit drug before graduation from high school and more than half try marijuana.” As a society, parents need to join together and support their children using the support group model (Otto, 1988). This model encourages parents to talk to each other about issues they are having with their children and within the community. Conclusive evidence shows that the main reason that adolescents begin drug and alcohol use is based on peers as well as attitudes toward drug and alcohol use. As teachers, finding students that are leaders of their peer group as well as at-risk for drug and alcohol use could help to cause a decrease in use for teens. These student leaders can provide a positive influence on their at-risk peers. The research shows that parental involvement, community support, early intervention, and out of school extra curricular activities can all be factors in lowering the drug and alcohol consumption of adolescents.

“Recent declines in the use of cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs demonstrate two important points: first, that youth behavior can be changed; and second, that organized parental efforts including information campaigns can make a difference (Otto, 1988).”


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