What Is the Impact of Adolescent Drug Abuse on Society, Research Paper Example
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It is in the nature of any society to be particularly focused on issues concerning its young people, as these will become the adult citizens later defining and contributing to the society. Consequently, drug abuse among adolescents is an alarming and growing concern. Despite regional and governmental efforts to educate children about the dangers of recreational drug use, these same children often grow into adolescents with drug addictions, or suffer from usage in this stage of life. Families and communities are impacted in harmful ways as well, future considerations aside. The following will attempt to analyze the actual state of adolescent drug use and identify the most common elements regarding it, based on reviewing the literature. From this, it will be deduced that adolescent drug abuse is a problem less related to the substances themselves, and more to environmental and social conditions. Consequently, the impact of adolescent drug abuse on society is that of revealing serious and complex problems within the society itself.
In no uncertain terms, the problem to be addressed, that of specifically adolescent abuse of illegal drugs, remains a widespread concern in society. The Center for Disease Control reports that, while certain substances are on the decline in teen experimentation and usage from the mid-1990s to 2011, the decreases are minimal, and the overall numbers are still alarming; nearly 40 percent of high school students, for example, admit to smoking marijuana, while nearly 12 percent use some form of inhalant, like glue, as a drug. The same, national survey reveals that over 20 percent of adolescents occasionally drink five or more alcoholic beverages within the space of an hour (CDC, 2012). Moreover, the problem itself is exacerbated by persistent efforts to address it that typically do not yield positive results. For long decades, adolescent drug use has been an issue targeted as stemming from a wide variety of causes, and approaches of a similarly wide range have been made with little success.
The purpose of the following is to isolate the state of adolescent drug use in a manner less reliant on actual percentages, as any survey of this kind is only as reliable as the amount of information disclosed. Then, there will be an emphasis on commonalities in this drug abuse, conducted through examining the prevalent literature. In simple terms, the actual reasons behind the consistent abuse of substances by young people will be targeted. Clearly, the study is limited by the relevance of the materials selected, although only the most creditable sources will be employed. Then, and unfortunately, an inevitable aspect of adolescence itself is an inclination to secrecy and/or unknown motives. Nonetheless, in taking this approach, it is expected that a hypothesis will be validated. This may be expressed as: the tendency to focus on substances themselves as the primary cause for adolescent drug abuse is misguided, as such abuse more typically is generated by social conditions and the turbulent state of adolescence itself. This translates to a societal impact as necessarily exposing flaws in understanding and approach.
To begin, there must be at least a proper sense of the magnitude of adolescent drug usage before any examination in causal factors may be entertained, and the hypothesis supported. To that end, there is a wealth of information available detailing patterns and types of such abuse. Initially, surveys of students beginning in 1975 were confined to high school juniors and seniors, but eight and ninth graders were included in the studies by 1991, a measure necessitated by awareness of earlier usage. Marijuana, as indicated, remains the “drug of choice” among adolescents. Usage dropped somewhat in the mid-1990s, but more recent years have seen increases, and in all high school grades. The rates of smoking marijuana, reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, echo those related by the CDC, exceeding 40 percent. By 2010, in fact, marijuana use of high school seniors was higher than that of cigarette smoking, as younger grades uniformly reflect the same trends. Beyond this substance, prescription medications also evince patterns of relatively consistent usage, with Vicodin, amphetamines, tranquilizers leading the array of preferred drugs. All of these substances are taken regularly by an average of seven percent of high school seniors, with an interesting increase in the taking of cough medicine in more recent years (NIDA, 2012). As indicated, here and elsewhere younger adolescents virtually follow the same patterns of usage as their older peers.
Different sources, of course, reveal different figures, yet there is a universality to these reports that cannot be dismissed. If adolescents are not inclined to reveal their drug usage habits, the surveys usually provide anonymity to encourage honesty. Equally of note, however, are recent efforts to identify economic and racial factors as prompting drug use in teens. This is critical in an examination of the larger subject, simply because minority populations, typically living in lower-income conditions, are increasing in size. The Hispanic population, for example, is the nation’s fastest growing demographic, and there has been evidence of an exponential rise in Hispanic youth usage of drugs. The evidence suggests, in fact, striking connections between environment and such usage, as educational and social elements seem to promote drug use. Less than half of all Hispanic adolescents graduate from high school, and this is notable because it is 20 percent higher a rate than the African American youth population, which has a similar socioeconomic status (Schinke, Moncher, Palleya, Zayas, & Schilling, 2010, p. 814). The actual numbers regarding adolescent Hispanic drug use are open to debate, but it is believed they exceed any other racial population, and it has been found that daily use of alcohol begins in Hispanic children before the age of ten. Reinforcing this pronounced difference is the fact that, in the New York area, 42 percent of all drug-related deaths are accounted for by Hispanics, a number far in excess of the racial distribution. Moreover, and as indicated by the cited study, Hispanic youths appear to experience more stressors than other adolescents. Not unexpectedly, poverty, unemployment, and urban deprivation are identified as distinct causes for this specific population’s stress ratios, but evidence also strongly points to factors not so easily recognizable. It is noted, for instance, that noise seems to create disproportionate stress levels in Hispanic adolescents, as the population is also marked by several types of reaction. Hispanic teens appear to be more victims of despair than other adolescent minorities, and this then takes the form of either surrender to drugs or violence exacerbated by drugs (Schinke et al, 2010, p. 819).
The importance of this particular piece of literature goes beyond that of Hispanic issues, for it inescapably implicates societal and environmental issues as promoting drug use in young people. This noted, there must be a distinction made between adolescent experimentation and actual abuse, if the latter is to be correctly understood. In simple terms, some measure of drug use is ordinary in children and young teens, and as that means of experimentation. Young people most commonly sample what are known as “gateway” drugs, such as the alcohol or prescription medications belong to their parents. This is relevant in terms of adolescent addiction, for the nature of the substances goes to the likelihood of chronic usage. For example, the vast majority of adolescents will try alcohol before reaching their senior year, while only one in 100 will experiment with opiates (Spielberger, 2004, p. 640). As common thinking supports, most young people are merely curious, as most do not become habitual drug users. Nonetheless, it must also be remembered that virtually all drug addiction begins in the adolescent years. Then, equally critical is the fact that the perceived power of drugs to temporarily alleviate problems is an enormous attraction to many young people not necessarily candidates for serious abuse. For instance, a 2007 study found that 26 percent of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking (Berger, 2008, p. 435). This fact alone indicates an alarming reality; namely, that there are no distinct groups of adolescents not vulnerable to drug abuse at some level. While severe social conditions may promote the likelihood, no adolescent is inherently safe from falling into drug abuse.
In reviewing literature on the subject, one factor emerges as compelling, in that adolescent drug abuse appears to develop through “concentrations” of experience more sharply focused than that of adult life. This is, to an extent, widely known; the nature of adolescence is self-discovery, along with processes of merging the evolving self into the surrounding worlds. The pressures are famously, and justifiably, intense, and not the least of these is the influence of peers. While the extent of peer influence on adolescents in regard to using drugs is debated, the controversy usually goes more to why the peers have such sway, rather than its effects. Peers do not come by their power randomly, of course; they fill a void in the adolescent’s life, often providing validation not attained elsewhere. The facts, nonetheless, consistently reveal harmful associations when this influence is allowed to dominate, as research overwhelmingly supports that adolescents who abuse drugs typically move within drug-abusing circles of friends (Liddle, Rowe, 2006, p. 233). Unable to cope with stresses inherent to the age and its circumstances, it is hardly surprising that an adolescent will seek both a substance that removes anxiety and is promoted by those around them.
The literature also predominantly supports that teen drug abuse is only partially dependent on the substance by virtue of investigations as to treating it. One uniformly cited fact regarding how adolescent drug abuse is dealt with reflects a single-approach methodology, when the reality is that a variety of causes usually create the dangerous scenario. Multiple studies, ranging from 1991 to the present day, all affirm that the single intervention model results in recidivism and relapse, when there is any cessation of the usage at all (Winters, 2006, p. 7). An issue with a multifaceted approach, however, is ironic, in that each factor playing into an adolescent’s likelihood of abusing drugs exponentially affects the others. For instance, research reveals that antisocial behavior in young children is a consistent predictor for substance abuse in the teen years. So, too, has failure in school been definitively linked to drug usage (Sloboda, Bukoski, 2003, p. 176). These two factors, then, clearly expose how intertwined are the issues generating adolescent drug abuse, and in a way removed from any particular substance. This, it seems evident, is the impact on society that must be considered. It is relatively easy to point to more tangible damage to society from the subject, such as familial conflict, criminality, outright violence, and the burdens on the culture of young adults unable to contribute to it. More difficult, and more urgent, is comprehending that adolescent drug abuse is more symptomatic of serious problems, than a serious problem in itself. Virtually all research and literature reinforces that the usage arises, not from attractions to substances, but from circumstances compelling the adolescent to “escape,” after they discover the initial euphoria the substance provides (Sexson, 2005, p. 197). Similarly, vast amounts of research consistently connect delinquency with adolescent drug use, yet are unable to establish causal relationships between the two beyond temporary loss of judgment (Regoli, Hewitt, & DeLisi, 2009, p. 270). As exhaustively as adolescent drug use has been documented and studied, it may be asserted that all efforts suggest a determination to isolate a cause which will free society of a staggering obligation: that of accepting responsibility for the proper and expansive development of its children. In basic terms, drug abuse in adolescents cannot be addressed from the “outside in,” but as a consequence, or symptom, of the very real factors enabling it.
As noted, there is no dearth of material documenting adolescent drug abuse rates, broken down in terms of socioeconomic status, specific substances, and age groups. All of it attests to the fact that the problem is very much an ongoing one, as the minor decreases of one kind of usage are matched by increase of another, or vary by matters of several years. Society, if appearances may be valued, is relentless in its pursuit to uncover a pathway allowing for a remedy. On one level, society itself is harmed by the crime and, at best, inertia that results when teens develop drug habits; on another, there would seem to be a genuine interest in the welfare of these young people themselves. Nonetheless, what occurs is a perpetual cycle of study and affirmation, all indicating beyond question that teen drug abuse results from a variety of issues, and all setting this aside to seek a more accessible means of address. This, ultimately, is the true impact of the subject on society. The tendency to focus on substances themselves as the primary cause for adolescent drug abuse is understandable, but hopelessly misguided. Adolescent drug abuse, as vast research supports, is usually generated by social conditions, familial issues, and the turbulent and highly vulnerable state of adolescence itself. It is therefore recommended that society refrain from further fact-finding, and instead concentrate on addressing the social inequalities and more personal circumstances promoting the undesirable activity. The real impact on society of this problem is that ignoring these inescapable realities translates to flaws in understanding and approach.
Berger, Kathleen Stassen (2008). The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence. New York: Macmillan.
Center for Disease Control (CDC). (2012). Trends in the Prevalence of Marijuana, Cocaine, and Other Illegal Drug Use National YRBS: 1991–2011. Retrieved 22 July, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/pdf/us_drug_trend_yrbs.pdf
Liddle, Howard A., & Rowe, Cynthia L. (2006). Adolescent Substance Abuse: Research and Clinical Advances. New York: Cambridge University Press.
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2012). High School and Youth Trends. Retrieved 22 July, 2012, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/high-school-youth-trends
Regoli, Robert M., Hewlitt, John, & DeLisi, Matt. (2009). Delinquency in Society. Sudbury: Jones Bartlett Learning.
Schinke, Steven P., Moncher, Michael S., Palleya, Josephine, Zayas, Luis H., & Schilling, Robert F. (2010). Hispanic Youth, Substance Abuse, and Stress: Implications for Prevention Research. International Journal of Addiction, 23 (8), 809-826.
Sexson, Sandra B. (2005). Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons.
Sloboda, Zili, & Bukoski, William J. (2003). Handbook of Drug Abuse Prevention: Theory, Science, and Practice. New York: Springer.
Spielberger, Charles Donald. (2004). Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology, Vol. I. New York: Academic Press.
Winters, Ken C. (2006). Adolescent Substance Abuse: New Frontiers in Assessment. New York: Psychology Press.
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