Reasons For Drug

For both pharmacological and psychological reasons, an adolescent who tries a particular type of drug is more likely to use that substance again if he or she enjoys the drug's effects. However, if unpleasant experiences are associated with the use, trying it again is less likely.

Because the body becomes accustomed to the effect of a drug, often the drug amount will need to be increased in order to obtain an effect. This phenomenon is known as tolerance, and once tolerance to a drug develops, the level of drug use may escalate into larger and larger doses. Continued use

Teenagers share a joint during an annual marijuana legalization rally in New York City's Washington Square Park, May 4, 1996. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

of drugs may also occur because of unpleasant symptoms—withdrawal—that may appear as the drug (e.g., heroin, nicotine, caffeine) begins to wear off. To avoid these withdrawal symptoms, a user may feel compelled to establish a regular pattern of use, possibly resulting in physical dependence.

The way a drug is used is also a factor in developing tolerance and physical dependence. For example, an adolescent who sniffs COCAINE may find that the amount he or she has to inhale to get the desired effects becomes enormous. Because of this, the user may switch to injecting the cocaine instead of inhaling it. This new route of administration exposes the user to a more potent form of the drug as well as to increased medical complications.

Other reasons that adolescents continue using a particular drug may be socially and environmentally driven. Teenagers looking for peer acceptance or wanting to appear ''cool'' or mature might decide to use drugs. For example, although the use of Tobacco and Alcohol is illegal for adolescents, it is both legal and socially acceptable for adults. ADVERTISING, the media, and role models portray drinking and smoking as desirable. Associating and socializing with peers who are using drugs provides an opportunity for access to drugs that can encourage experimentation and ongoing use.

Researchers have investigated the influence of parents and the family environment on children's alcohol and drug use, dysfunctional patterns of coping, and delinquent activity. In one study, a large group of New Jersey adolescents was interviewed by phone at two different times, three years apart. Between 1979 and 1981, 1,380 subjects aged 12, 15, and 18 were interviewed. Three years later, 95 percent of them (1,308 subjects) were interviewed again. The interviews included topics of family harmony and cohesion, parenting styles, and the attitudes and behaviors of parents. The results showed that the alcohol consumption of the younger children was influenced by the alcohol use and attitudes of the parent of the same gender as the child. Older adolescents, though, were most strongly affected by the father's alcohol use. Parental hostility and lack of warmth toward the children was associated with use of drugs and alcohol among adolescents (Johnson & Pandina, 1996).

A national household sample of 4,023 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years was interviewed by telephone about substance use, victimization experiences, familial substance use, and posttraumatic reactions to identify risk factors for substance abuse or dependence. A major finding was that adolescents who had been physically assaulted or sexually assaulted, who had witnessed violence, or who had family members with alcohol or drug use problems had increased risk for current substance abuse or dependence (Kilpatrick et al., 2000).

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was used from 4,800 subjects to examine the relationship between adolescents' employment and substance abuse behaviors. The study concluded that among public high school students with extracurricular jobs, those who worked above 15 hours per week appeared to have an increased risk for substance abuse (Valois, 2000).

A study that examined the effects of family structure and family environments on the initiation of illicit drug use among a sample of Hispanic, African American, and white adolescent boys found large differences in family structure among the three groups. African American adolescents reported the lowest incidence of illicit drug use initiation, and the weakest effects of family structure and environment on substance use. Deteriorating changes in family environments were stronger predictors of the initiation of drug use among Hispanic immigrants than nonimmigrants, and family socioeconomic status was a predictor for immigrant His-panics only. For all groups, the accumulation of family risk factors was a stronger predictor of illicit drug initiation than family structure (Gil, 1998).

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