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Poly-Substance Abuse in Adolescent Males with Depression Research Paper

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Updated: May 11th, 2019


It is projected that poly-substance abuse is the major cause of depression because there are high chances that a depressed individual is a frequent user of poly-substances. Poly-substance abuse forces people to abandon their social roles, which lead to depression. This paper looks at the ways in which poly-substance abuse is related to depression.

The paper looks at the way in which poly-substance abuse brings about depression in adolescent males. The essay suggests a quantitative study that would be critical in gathering relevant data related to the relationship between depression and drug abuse. In the subsequent section, the proposal suggests a data analysis method that uses statistics


Poly-substance abuse in adolescent males with depression is common in many societies. Winters and Latimer (2004) conducted a study, which established that poly-substance abuse affects all ethnic groups meaning that it does not affect only certain cultural groupings. This quantitative study focuses on the relationship between poly-substance abuse in adolescent males and depression. By definition, poly-substance abuse refers to the patterned intake of a substance (drug) that is usually taken either in large or small quantities.

The substance has the ability to affect the behavior and actions of individuals. The substance is usually used illegally using unapproved methods meaning that it would definitely change the attitude of the individual. It should be noted that poly-substance abuse is not restricted to those that change the mood of the individual or those that activate the psychological processes.

Athletes are usually reported to using drugs that stimulate their muscles and give them additional energy. This is also considered drug abuse because it changes the functioning of the body and the brain, which affects the psychological processes. Ksir (2002) observed that the use of illicit drugs such as narcotics, stimulants, and depressants are some of the examples of poly-substance abuse.

Poly-substance abuse is directly related to depression because those who use drugs are always miserable as compared to non-users of drugs. People suffer emotionally due to the intake of illicit drugs. For instance, athletes are usually snatched their medals due to suspicion of poly-substance abuse. Research gaps in literature, which is related to the relationship between substance abuse and depression, exist.

Problem Statement

In human life, there are moments that an individual feels confused and sad. This is a normal feeling, but its persistence is considered a sign of depression. Depression occurs when a male adolescent loses something that he values so much in his life. Sometimes, an adolescent could be depressed after going through a stressful event or event.

At times, depression affects the normal life of the adolescent male because he cannot execute his duties in a way that befits him. This may lead to a psychological disorder referred to as the major depressive disorder (MDD), also referred to as clinical depression. Therefore, there is need of establishing the extent at which poly-substance abuse is related to depression.

It is clear that adolescent males engage in poly-substance abuse because of a number of reasons. Depression is the major cause because many feel frustrated to an extent of engaging in poly-substance abuse as a way of reducing stress.

Statement of Purpose

A number of studies have been conducted to ascertain the relationship between poly-substance abuse and depression. Each study has been focusing on particular groups, depending on the choice of the researcher. In this proposal, the effects of poly-substance abuse in adolescent males would be evaluated.

The main purpose of the proposal is to suggest a relevant method that would achieve desired results. The proposal gives some of the articles that would be critical in understanding the relationship between poly-substance abuse and depression in adolescent males. Apart from suggesting some of the articles in the literature review section, the proposal suggests a quantitative method that will utilize the questionnaires in gathering relevant data.

The use of questionnaire enables the researcher to collect adequate information that is relevant to the study. In doing this, the proposal seeks to answer a number of questions, including the following:

  1. Is poly-substance abuse the only cause of depression among male adolescents?
  2. To what extent does substance abuse influence the behavior of an individual
  3. What are some of the substances that the adolescent males frequently abuse


Male adolescents go through various challenges, one of them being poly-substance abuse, which affects their behavior and mood. Poly-substance abuse is a major cause of depression in adolescent males because it affects their psychological and social processes. This causes depression because the adolescent might not be able to achieve the expected results owing to poly-substance abuse.

Literature review

Depression is the most crucial aspect that makes young males to indulge in poly-substance abuse. Male adolescents express their depression in various ways. Poly- substance abuse lowers an individual’s level of judgment making him or her to indulge in risky behaviors such as premarital sex or even becoming homosexual an aspect that increases their risk to diseases such as HIV/AIDS among others.

One of the studies that Boys, Marsden, and Strang conducted in 2000 concluded that poly-substance abuse has a tremendous effect on the life of young males. The study utilized a snowball sampling technique to reach at the conclusion. The respondents noted that some of the commonly abused substances include alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine.

The majority of the participants confirmed that they had actually utilized the above substances to fulfill their measured substance use functions. In another study conducted by Huba and Lisa (2000), it was established that poly-substance abuse increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. In their study, young Hispanic males were more likely to abuse poly-substances while the Native American females were prone to poly-substance abuse.

Moreover, the study established that those who abuse drugs are likely to engage in unprotected sex, which predisposes them to the risks of contracting HIV. It is noteworthy that their research results are representative of findings in clinical gay-bisexual male adolescents and may not hold for the same group of male adolescents in the general societal setting.

Additionally, different ethnic groups exhibit varying frequencies of the involvement of depressed adolescent boys in poly-substance abuse. This was established through a study carried out by Winters and Latimer (2004) in their attempt to find the relationship between Alcohol and other drugs abused in adolescent boys from different ethnic groups in the U.S.

Poulin (2004) and other scholars investigated the relationship between depression and poly-substance abuse in male adolescents in the four Atlantic provinces of Canada as far as gender is concerned. Poulin’s sample consisted of 12,771 students in both junior and high schools of the public schools in the four provinces.

They found out that adolescent males were consistently at a higher risk of depressive symptoms, depressive disorders since they tend to internalize their problems more than others do. According to their study, the prevalence of very elevated symptoms among male adolescents was 8.6% while that of the males was 2.6%. However, male adolescents are at a greater risk of substance use disorders than the adolescent females.

Poulin (2004) found out that different substances are used at different rates among male adolescents with depression. The findings were similar to those of Nolen-Hoeksema’s (2001) who carried out a study to describe how the different genders have different experiences as far as stress in male adolescents is concerned. They identified most of the abused substances among male adolescents. They include alcohol, cigarettes, and cannabis.

They associated the increased use of these substances with an increasing probability of depressive disorder. They also noted that smoking was the least controllable substance among the males. They established that depressive symptoms and disorder are the major predictors of smoking uptake not only in adolescence but also in adulthood. Early onset smoking poses a greater risk for severe depression symptoms than later onset smoking. On the other hand, cannabis abuse was associated with males with had a history of depression disorder.

An approximated 16% of those who had used cannabis at least once in their life were diagnosed with depression compared to 6% of the male adolescents who had never used cannabis. They also found out that most of the students had depression symptoms while others already had depression disorder but they had not received much help form the society. Only 10.3% reported that they had received help for depression.

Their findings show that for the different levels of depression only 12% of the students with somewhat elevated depressive symptoms had received help so was 22% of the students who had very elevated depressive symptoms. Major depression is one of the most common and serious disorders among male adolescents.

The estimated prevalence of the disorder is between 2.8% and 8.2%. Depressed adolescents are highly vulnerable to poly substance abuse such as engagement in multiple illegal activities (Poulin 2004).

No study proves that defective genes cause major depressive disorder. However, a relationship between genetic makeup and susceptibility to major depression disorder exits. This is based on the idea that some families are known to commit suicide while others have the ability of handling stress very well.

In one of the studies performed on twins, a relationship between genetics and major depression disorder was eminent (Smoller, Sheidley, & Tsuang, 2008). It is anticipated that the genetic code will soon link substitutions of personal bases to an individual’s DNA.

So far, at least five studies have proved that the etiology of major depressive disorder is genetic. The studies show that heritability is prevalent in women as compared to men. Moreover, heritability level is high for individuals who are exposed to similar conditions as their parents. Individuals who are exposed to diverse experiences have high chances of suffering from depression as compared to those who live under stable conditions.

In the family system, the behavior of parents affect heritability of depression since one of the studies established that an approximated 38% of individuals suffered from depression inherited from their parents (Zeanah, 2009). The study further found out that the behavior of parents, as well as their genes could influence the rate at which an individual suffers from depression.



This study will obtain its sample from three schools in the United States. Those sampled would be 102 male adolescents aged between 14 and 19. A sample of approximately 102 adult males will be recruited for this study. To recruit young adolescents with different levels of depression, the researcher would obtain membership information from community based organizations and the school administration located in the three schools selected for this study.

The eligibility criteria would include individuals who are over the age fourteen, but below 19 years, English speakers, adolescent males, and not currently engaging in effective stress management programs. The participants would be recruited through a process of practical mail (Hughes, 1997).

Therefore, a convenience sampling technique would be the most applicable sampling method since the participation in the study will be voluntarily. After completion of the baseline assessment, participants will be assigned to a group that demonstrates very frequent poly-substance abuse, frequent depression, and frequent underperformance, indicated by the school authorities (Krathwohl, 2004).


PCL-M will be used in this study. It is a self-report measure, which is easy to use given the fact that it can be completed within a short time. The assessment instrument is so effective when it comes to establishing the emotional states of individuals. The reactions of the respondents would be measured on a Linkert scale whereby scores would be compared with those in the scale (Hunter, & Leahey, 2008).

The survey instrument will have a number of questions that would be aiming at collecting critical information regarding the emotional states of male poly-substance users. The Linkert scale will run from 0-20, with scores of 10-20 indicting high rate of depression while scores of 0-10 will indicate low depression rates among respondents (Diriwächter, & Valsiner, 2006).

Respondents with high depression rates according to the Linkert scale will be cross-examined to establish the factors with relevant correlation to poly-substance abuse.


Independent Varibale

In this study, young male adolecent’s demographic characteristics such as age and education were identified as the major control varibales. Age is a very important control variable because it helps in explaining the rationality of the response. The level of education plays a critical role in determining the skills and specialization of an individual, which encourages him to engage in poly-substance abuse (Andrzej, & Buchaman, 2007).

Physical health will be one of other independent variable to be measured in this study, which will be measured using the self-rated health meaning that respondents would be requested to rate their health. Some of the options will include excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor.

A model variable will be formed to stand for fair/poor self rated physical health. This model variable will also be included in data analysis. Mental health will be captured using the yes/no question.

Dependent Variables

Poly-substance use will be one of the dependent varibales that the study will be seeking to measure. It is a contnuous varibale consiting of various substabces such as alcohol and other illicit drugs. However, it does not include tobbaco.

The variable will be constructed by first dichotomizing substances through reviewing the regularity of use in the last thirty days. These dichotomous measures would then be summed to generate a count of the number of substances abused by the male adolescents over thirty days. The response series for this variable will be from 0-7.

Data Analysis

Data analysis refers to the process of transforming raw data into refined useful information that can be of use to people. Before settling on a method of data analysis, it is important that a clear data analysis approach be developed. The research can take quantitative, qualitative, or categorical approach. This research took a quantitative approach.

Depending on the type and accuracy needed, data analysis can take a simple descriptive form or a more complex statistical inference. The technique used in the analysis can be univariate analysis, bivariate analysis or multivariate analysis. In selecting the appropriate method, a researcher should ensure that assumptions relating to the method are satisfied.

In analyzing the collected data, the researcher will use appropriate statistical data analysis tools such as descriptive and inferential statistics in analyzing quantitative data.

In relation to the quantitative analysis, the most commonly used sets of statistics include mean, frequencies, standard deviation, median, and percentages. The researcher will code and enter the quantitative data into Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 20). Using SPSS, the researcher will use cross tabulation to present the information.

The tabulation would help give a clear picture of the impact of drug abuse on the psychological health of an individual. The researcher will also use descriptive statistics such as mean, standard deviation, percentage, and frequencies to describe the properties of the target population. Further, the researcher will use tables, figures, and charts to present the findings of the study. Because the research entails determination of the impact of drug abuse on the emotional wellbeing, there will be some form of comparison.

The comparison will be done on how depression changes the attitudes of individuals. Correlation analysis would be important to make this a success. Consequently, chi-square tests would be utilized to evaluate the hypotheses. Inferential statistics like chi-square tests help to test whether the observed relationships between the variables are genuine.

The statistical significance level used in the research is 0.05 indicating whether the observed association occurred by chance in 5 out of 100 results. Chi-square is the mainly utilized measure of association in social science investigation, being appropriate for utilization on ostensible, ordinal, hiatus, and relational data.

In this study, the hypothesis would be proved through data analysis. It would be prudent to show that a group with very high level of poly-substance abuse has higher level of depression while the group with low level of poly-substance abuse has low level of depression. Data analysis process would follow data assessment and organization of scores.

An average score of perceived depression for each group would be provided by calculating the central tendency. In this regard, the mean would be calculated. Moreover, the median would also be calculated just in case there would be outliers in the data collected. Once the results of the central tendency are obtained for each group, the correlations between the frequency of poly-substance abuse and perceived depression level would be obtained.

The most common graph used to show the relationship between pairs of data is a scatter plot (Warren, Denley, & Atchley, 2008). There would be need to identify the variables in order to create the scatter plot. Therefore, the independent variable in the case of this study would be frequency of poly-substance abuse. The dependent variable is the perceived level of depression.

After creating a scatter plot for each group, the researcher would be able to determine whether he follows the positive slope pattern, negative slope pattern, or a straight line. Furthermore, the researcher would measure the strength of a linear relationship by calculating the correlation coefficient (r). In order to compute r, the researcher will utilize the formula NΣXY – (ΣX) (ΣY)

√ ([NΣX2 – (ΣX) 2] [NΣY2 – (ΣY) 2]) or TI -84

Finally, the researcher would determine the statistical significance for the two variables for each group. The level of significance of 5% (0.05) would be used since it is normally utilized in psychology (Warren, Denley, & Atchley, 2008).

Expected Analysis

This study will utilize the questionnaire in collecting information from respondents regarding poly-substance in adolescent males with depression. Analysis is expected to confirm the alternative hypothesis that a positive relationship between poly-substance abuse and depression exist.


Andrzej, A. & Buchaman, A. (2007). Organizational Behavior. London: Prentice Hall.

Boys, A., Marsden, J., & Strang, J. (2000). Understanding reasons for drug use amongst young people: a functional perspective. Health Education Research Journal, 16(4), 457-469.

Diriwächter, R. & Valsiner, J. (2006). Quantitative Developmental Research Methods in Their Historical and Epistemological Contexts. FQS, 17(1), 8–26.

Huba, G., & Lisa, A. (2000). Predicting Substance Abuse among Youth With, or at High Risk for HIV. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 14(2), 197-205.

Hughes, J. (1997). The philosophy of social research (3rded.). London: Longman.

Hunter, L. & Leahey, E (2008). Collaborative Research in Sociology: Trends and Contributing Factors. American Sociologist, 39(1), 290–306.

Krathwohl, D. (2004). Methods of educational and social science research: an integrated approach (2nd ed.). Long Grove, Waveland Press.

Ksir, O. (2002). Drugs, society, and human behavior (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2001). Gender Differences in Depression. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(5), 173-176

Poulin, C. (2004). Gender Differences in the Association between Substance Use and Elevated Depressive Symptoms in General Adolescent Population. Addiction, 100(1), 525-535.

Smoller, J. W., Sheidley, B. R., & Tsuang, M. T. (2008). Psychiatric genetics: Applications in clinical practice. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publication.

Warren, C., Denley, K. & Atchley, E. (2008). Beginning statistics. Charleston, SC: Hawkes Learning Systems.

Winters, K.C., & Latimer, W.W. (2004). Measuring Adolescent Drug Abuse and Psychosocial Factors in Four Ethnic Groups of Drug-Abusing Boys. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 12(4), 227-236.

Zeanah, C. H. (2009). Handbook of infant mental health. New York: Guilford Press.

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