Substance Abuse > Chapter 4 - Contributors to Substance Abuse

IV. Contributors to Substance Abuse in Adolescents and Adults

Looking at the trends of substance abuse causes many people to ask, "Why? Why do so many people begin to and continue to use harmful illicit drugs?" There are many theories, professional and personal, as to why people began or continue to use drugs. While answering the question "Why?" and looking for causes can be a nebulous and time consuming proposition, an easier direction of understanding substance abuse is to consider the contributers to substance abuse. The term "contributors" is used rather than "causes" because the definitive cause of substance abuse is unknown. A contributor to substance abuse refers to one possible variable out of many which are associated with drug use, the particular combination of which may vary in each individual case to establish cause.

[QN.No.20.Studies show the precise reasons why people abuse drugs:True/False?]

A. Self-Devaluation

Howard Kaplan (1980) tested and found four "explanatory perspectives" for the adoption of substance abuse among adolescence. The first of these is self-devaluation, which causes a loss of motivation on the part of the individual to conform to the norms, and the desire to deviate from them. In addition, the individual will seek deviant patterns that satisfy his or her own self-accepting attitudes.

B. Peer Influence

The second contributor is that of peer influence. When an adolescent associates with peers who favor illicit use of drugs, then they are more likely to use drugs themselves. This is motivated by the desire to gain social approval.

Adolescents usually divide and associate with specific social groups, and in those groups there is pressure to adopt and learn the groups norms in order to fit in. If one of those norms is substance abuse then the adolescent will probably conform. The risk increases wherein, if the child has a poor relationship with the parents, the attachment to the peer group becomes even more important.

Patterns of substance abuse are not random. Distinct social groups tend to use different drugs, depending on such factors as locale, class structure, socialization, lifestyle, and drug availability.(Bohm, 1984)

C. Poor Social Control

A third contributor is a result of poor social control. This occurs as a result of weakened attachment to the agents of socialization such as the family and school. Because of the weakened attachments the individual lacks commitment to the “basic normative structure and…ceases to have internalized control over deviations...(p.271)

As mentioned, family relationships play an important role in the decisions of an adolescent to use or not use drugs. Studies have found that low family expectations of achievement, and an unstructured/hands-off approach to parenting, predict future substance abuse. Other factors include disagreement between the mother and father in child rearing, inconsistent discipline, over restrictive discipline, and maternal rejection.

In addition to these factors, intergenerational issues come into play. Modeled coping skills that are past down ancestral lines impact on the coping skills of the youngster. Using these same patterns the adolescent may have grown up learning how to use psychological and chemical crutches.

D. Earlier Substance Abuse

The last contributor mentioned by Kaplan is that of earlier substance abuse. Not only is the person more likely to be using drugs as an adolescent if he or she used them as a child, but he or she is also more likely to be involved in multiple/harder drug use.

There is usually a multiple pathway to drug use. No one contributor can be isolated to account for all types of drug use. The study did go on to mention that adolescents are in a critical period for forming appropriate coping skills and, therefore, are at an extremely vulnerable time to use drugs as coping mechanisms.

[QN.No.21.The following is not one of Kaplan's "explanatory perspectives" for the adoption of substance abuse among adolescents?]

E. Poor Coping Skills

Coping skills, not learned in adolescence, may contribute to later problems as individuals face the stressors of adult life. In order to keep up with work an adult may experiment with Methamphetamines. The result of this experiment is a short term ability to focus better at work for longer periods of time. The results seemed to be positive so the person takes more, until they have become dependent on the drug just to function normally.

Finances are usually a concern for adults. With record levels of consumer debt and bankruptcies, the stress of facing reality may be overwhelming. Increased alcohol and drug intake can also result in substance dependence. Others will face family crisis, like the death of a child or spouse, both very difficult and heavy stressors. Without established coping skills, clients will desire to mentally and emotionally escape. Drugs provide that escape in their mind, but reality, often worse as a result of their use, is there waiting for them.

F. Family Genetics, Values and Socialization

Also contributing to substance use is the part that generations play, genetically and socially. It is pretty well established that parents pass down to their children values that have existed in the family for generations. Hence, the usefulness of genograms (an assessment tool to evaluate intergenerational patterns of behaviors and diseases) in looking at the impact previous generations have played in the client's current dilemmas. Although still relatively in the beginning stages of producing concrete results, it is generally believed, and some studies show, that there are also genetic propensities for substance use that are passed down through generations.

The co-dependence in families

One significant contributor to continued substance abuse is that of co-dependence on the part of family members or loved ones. Families develop coping skills and are adaptive. Even though these may result in dysfunctional characteristics, they become the norm. Having a family member using drugs becomes what is comfortable, and enabling that person in using drugs maintains the equilibrium that the family has established.

If there is a drug user in the family it becomes the convenient thing/person to blame all other problems upon. It may cover other family conflicts or other problems that have little to do with the substance abuse, but it is more convenient not having to deal directly with them. The family might have this one thing, this one crisis of the person using, that brings them together. They become unified in dealing with the problem--it defines them. Another may be that sometimes a person might be more enjoyable to be around when they are intoxicated. Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, not a pleasant mood for those close to the person.

The codependence in families is not usually noticed by the family. To ask them they would say that it is their greatest desire for their loved one stop using. Their behaviors, however, encourage just the opposite, and actually make it more difficult for the person to stop.

The Devastation of Drug Use

While there are some that will use drugs and claim that they can do so without any adverse effects, the general devastation of substance use is evident in the millions of dollars spent in treatment, court, lost work and time, poor work performance, incarceration and death. Another consequence of drug use is the effect the use of drugs have on individuals' well-being, their relationships and their families. The following is an illustration of the disturbing effects of "Speed:"

Meet Mr. & Mrs. Crystal Meth

Author Unknown

I destroy homes, I tear families apart,
I take your children and that's just the start.
I'm more valued than diamonds, more precious than gold.
The sorrow I bring is a sight to behold.
If you need me, remember, I'm easily found.
I live all around you, in school and in town.
I live with the rich, I live with the poor,
I live just down the street and maybe next door.
I'm made in a lab, but not one like you think:
I can be made under the kitchen sink,
In your child's closet, and even out in the woods.
If this scares you to death, then it certainly should.
I have many names, but there's one you'll know best.
I'm sure you heard of me. My name is Crystal Meth.
My power is awesome, try me, you'll see;
But if you do, you may never break free.
Just try me once and I might let you go.
But if you try me twice, then I'll own your soul.
When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie.
You'll do what you have to do, just to get high.
The crimes you'll commit for my narcotic charms
Will be worth the pleasures you feel in my arms.
You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dad.
When you see their tears, you must feel sad.
Just forget your morals and how you were raised.
I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways.
I take kids from their parents; I take parents from their kids.

I turn people from God. I separate friends.
I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride.
I'll be with you always, right by your side.
You'll give up everything, your family, your home,
Your money, your true friend then you'll be alone.
I'll take and take 'til you have no more to give.
When I finish with you, you'll be lucky to live.
If you try me, be warned: this is not a game.
If I'm given the chance, I'll drive you insane.
I'll ravage your body; I'll control your mind.
I'll own you completely. Your soul will be mine.
The nightmares I'll give you when you're lying in bed
And the voices you'll hear from inside your head,
The sweats, the shakes, and the visions you'll see:
I want you to know these things are gifts from me.
By then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart
That you are now mine and we shall not part.
You'll regret that you tried me (they always do),
But you come to me, not I to you.
You knew this would happen. Many times you were told.
But you challenged my power. You chose to be bold.
You could have said no and then walked away.
If you could live that day over now, what would you say?
My power is awesome, as I told you before.
I can take your life and make it so dim and sore.
I'll be your master and you'll be my slave.
I'll even go with you when you go to your grave.
Now that you've met me, what will you do?
Will you try me or not? It's all up to you.
I can show you more misery than words can tell.
Come take my hand, let me lead you to HELL.

Pop Culture Narcotics Quiz

Time for a little break. Click on this link to try out your knowledge with this brief quiz from the Public Broadcasting System's Frontline Series on drugs:

Substance Abuse > Chapter 4 - Contributors to Substance Abuse
Page Last Modified On: August 9, 2014, 11:26 AM