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This paper has been aimed at discussing the problem of substance abuse among adolescents. In particular, it focuses on the factors that lead to dependence on drugs on alcohol, for instance, peer-pressure, low self-esteem, family problems, experiences of sexual abuse, and so forth. The proposed interventions include the following measures: 1) regular communication with both parents; 2) paying more attention to the friends of a teenager; 3) limiting the access to money; 4) organizing extra curriculum activities for teenagers.
Substance abuse among adolescents is the problem that requires the joint effort of parents, teachers, and social workers. It can affect families that have various social, racial, or economic characteristics and no one can say that he or she is insured against this risk. This paper is aimed at discussing the factors that contribute to substance abuse among teenagers. Moreover, it is necessary to propose interventions that can prevent adolescents from experimenting with drugs or drinking alcohol.
The development of substance abuse
The development of substance abuse among adolescents can be explained in different ways. The researchers point out that more than 40 percent of teenagers begin to take drugs or drink alcohol in the company of their peers (Ahmad, Khalique, & Khan, 2009, p. 401). These people may believe that drug use is a sign of belonging to the group.
As a rule, they do not want to criticize the behavior of their peers who may believe that drugs and alcohol are acceptable. In their opinion, the rejection of group values can make them outcasts. An adolescent, who has a strong attachment to the group, can abuse substance either to acquire new experiences or in effort to impress his or her friends (Ramirez et al, 2012, p. 39).
Thus, peer pressure is one way to explain this problem. Certainly, peer pressure can also be a positive force, especially when a teenager’s friends lead a healthy lifestyle and do not approve of alcohol or drug abuse. This is the first issue that parents and teachers should take into account.
Secondly, one should remember that this behavior can be caused by some problems within the family. Chassin and Handley believe, teenagers can resort to alcohol and drugs when they do not feel the emotional support and encouragement of parents (2006, p. 136). For them, substance abuse becomes a substitute for normal family relations. Such behavior is more typical of teenagers suffering from domestic violence (Caple & Schub, 2012, p. 1).
Additionally, one should remember that remember that for many teenagers attempt to raise their perceived status and self-esteem by drinking alcoholic beverages or using substances (Ahmad, Khalique, & Khan, 2009, p. 401). In their opinion, this behavior signifies adulthood and independence.
Certainly, this assumption is false but this is how many of them believe. Thus, this problem can be related to the way in which adolescents perceive themselves. These examples suggest that there are different paths that lead to substance abuse problems and intervention should account for various possibilities.
Risk factors related to substance abuse
Overall, researchers single out several characteristics of adolescents that may take drugs, namely, low self-esteem, psychological distress, lack of meaningful relations with parents, or contacts with people, usually peers who abuse drugs (Newcomb, 1986, p. 525). These teenagers believe that only peers can offer them help or encouragement. Usually, this belief is not justified, but it is very strong.
However, there are other important indicators that should not be overlooked. For example, statistical evidence suggests that teenagers, who suffered sexual or physical abuse, tend to drink alcohol or use drugs much earlier that their peers (Caple & Schub, 2012, p. 1). These adolescents cannot give vent to their feelings, and they view drugs or alcohol as the only solution available to them. Additionally, one should remember about such a factor as the structure of the family.
A teenager growing up in a two-family household is less likely to get addicted to alcohol or drugs (Caple & Schub, 2012, p. 1). Surely, one cannot assume that adolescents from single-parent families are always prone to drug abuse or alcohol consumption. However, it is easier for teenagers to cope with stress when they can communicate with both parents.
Parenting style can either increase or decrease the likelihood of substance abuse among teenagers. Over-permissiveness is strongly correlated with alcohol consumption (Caple & Schub, 2012, p. 2). For example, adolescents are more likely to use drugs if their parents give them unlimited access to money (McCrystal, Percy, &Higgins, 2007, p. 26). Yet, authoritarian parenting can also lead to substance abuse.
So, parents should find a balance between control over their children and permissiveness. The risk factors that have been discussed cannot be applied to every case of substance abuse among adolescents; yet, they are very widespread. Therefore, educators should pay more attention to the needs of these teenagers, because they are more exposed to the risk of substance abuse.
The influence of addiction on self-identity
Drug abuse and subsequent addiction affects the self-identity of teenagers. In part, this influence can be explained with the help of social learning theory developed by Albert Bandura. It postulates that an individual learns behavioral norms by observing those people who are close to him or her (Wodarski, 1990, 670). A teenager, who wants to appear stronger or more independent, may emulate the habits of older peers and these people may abuse drugs or alcohol (Wodarski, 1990, 670).
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Moreover, one should not forget that mass media, especially television are full of images suggesting alcohol consumption is acceptable for adults. Thus, this person begins to think that substance is an attribute of adulthood. Such teenagers may believe that they are strong, self-sufficient, and independent of their parents. However, later they are not able to perceive themselves in this way. They understand that they have become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
They see that they do not have any control over the situation. The awareness of this fact can lead to low self-esteem and feeling of worthlessness. Thus, it is possible to argue that addiction distorts the self-identity of an individual. At first, it creates an illusion of power or independence, but eventually results into the feeling of helplessness. These are the main effects of addiction on the self-identity of a teenager.
There are several interventions that can reduce the risk of substance abuse among adolescent. First of all, parents should remember that regular communication with both parents reduces the risk of deviant behavior, including drug abuse (Caple & Schub, 2012, p. 1). Thus, parents should make sure that they can talk to a child at least once a day.
Divorced parents should not prevent one another from seeing a child. A teenager should know that he or she can rely on other members of the family. As a result, this person will not feel the need to use drugs and seek the support of peers.
Secondly, parents should learn more about the friends of their children. For example, they should know how they spend time, and what they are interested in. By doing so, parents can determine whether their children’s friends have a good or bad influence over them. This is why parents should not prohibit their children from inviting their friends to the house. Moreover, parents can even occasionally organize small parties for them. In this way, they learn much more about the friends of their children.
The third intervention that researchers recommend is to limit a teenager’s access to money (McCrystal, Percy, &Higgins, 2007, p. 26). The findings suggest that uncontrolled access to money at the age of 13 or 14 increases the probability of drug use (McCrystal, Percy, &Higgins, 2007, p. 26).
Thus, parents should be attentive to how their children spend money. Certainly, people cannot always know for what kind of purposes their children need money. However, they should be very careful when a child asks for extra cash because this cash can be needed for drugs or alcohol.
In turn, teachers should encourage children’s participation in school life when it is possible. Special attention should be paid to extra curriculum activities because a student, who has certain interests or goals, will be less attracted to alcohol and drugs. For example, schools can establish study groups for children who may be interested in different subjects like biology, chemistry, mathematics, and so forth. In this way, they can divert adolescents’ attention from drugs.
Additionally, they should be very attentive to academic performance of students. The thing is that poor grades and continuous absence from school may indicate at some emotional problems or even substance abuse. At any rate, parents should be warned about these issues as soon as possible.
On the whole, drug abuse and alcohol consumption are the problems that can affect the life of almost any family irrespective of its income level, ethnic origins , or education background. The examples discussed in this paper suggest that teenagers are torn between their need for independence and the need for support.
The proposed intervention are premised on the idea that the child, who feels the support of parents and who has some interests, is less interested in alcohol or drugs because they create no value for him or her. Moreover, this adolescent will be more resistant to peer pressure.
Ahmad, A., Khalique, N., & Khan, Z. (2009). Analysis of Substance Abuse in Male Adolescents. Iranian Journal of Pediatrics, 19(4), 399-403.
Caple, C., & Schub, T. (2012). Substance Abuse in Adolescence: Risk/Protective Factors. CINAHL Nursing Guide, 1-2.
Chassin, L., & Handley, E. D. (2006). Parents and Families as Contexts for the Development of Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders. Psychology Of Addictive Behaviors, 20(2), 135.
McCrystal, P., Percy, A., & Higgins, K. (2007). The cost of drug use in adolescence: Young people, money and substance abuse. Drugs: Education, Prevention & Policy, 14(1), 19-28.
Newcomb, M. M. (1986). Risk Factors for Drug Use among Adolescents: Concurrent and Longitudinal Analyses. American Journal Of Public Health, 76(5), 525-540.
Ramirez, R., Hinman, A., Sterling, S., Weisner, C., & Campbell, C. (2012). Peer Influences on Adolescent Alcohol and Other Drug Use Outcomes. Journal Of Nursing Scholarship, 44(1), 36-44.
Wodarski, J. S. (1990). Adolescent substance abuse: Practice implications. Adolescence, 25(99), 667-688.