Substance Abuse Research Paper

Pages: 8 (2589 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] In short, "certain drugs have served as a proxy for racial and ethnic bias," and this has been true throughout American history (Wilson and Kolander, p. 8).

Environmental, social and individual on influences all contribute to drug use, including parents, peers, and the community combined with genetic predisposition, personality traits and individual attitudes and beliefs. Youthful experimentation and rebelliousness are a common reason for trying drugs, which also serve a function in social interactions, particularly drugs like alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. Among poor and inner-city minority youth, "the social milieu of street life leads many people to escalate their drug use" in situations where gangs are also involved in drug sales and distribution. For young people "a strong relationship has been found between drug use and recklessness and pre-delinquent behaviors such as aggression and poor emotional control" (Goldberg, p. 51). Young people in broken or dysfunctional family situations, low self-esteem, impulsivity, poverty, low personal skills and hostility toward authority all indicate a higher risk for drug use. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is often associated with "economic disadvantage, social dysfunction, and unsupportive home and community environments," especially in families with a history of drug and alcohol abuse (Wilson and Kolander, p. 11). Adolescents who are frequently bored are 50% more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and in general drug and alcohol use peak for people in their early-20s, then declines thereafter (Mosher and Akins, p. 148). Twin studies also show that genetic factors play an important role in the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, and the "addiction is partly genetic and runs in families" (Goldberg, p. 55). Music, movies, television and advertising will always have an impact on young people as well, no matter whether smoking and alcohol and drug use are portrayed in a positive or negative light.

III. Prevention Strategies

Prevention and education strategies are designed to hinder drug, alcohol and tobacco use before it begins, or to intervene when dependence or addiction has occurred. Ever since the 19th Century, physicians and psychiatrists have known how to treat addicts by gradually lowering the dosage of the drug in a clinical or hospital setting, although relapses have always been common. Quitting suddenly and completely ('cold turkey') will always be more difficult because of the withdrawal symptoms, and in many cases might even be downright dangerous. For these reasons, social and psychological support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and various forms of group therapy have always proven useful as well. Some treatment programs, especially in Europe, focus on harm reduction and limitation of drug and alcohol intake rather than total abstinence. Billions of dollars have been spent on drug treatment, education and intervention programs, but the results remain unclear, and "the diverse nature of drug education presents a substantial challenge for program implementation and evaluation" (Wilson and Kolander, p. 4).

Nor is there a social consensus about which drugs should be targeted. Certain cultures have more permissive ideas about children using alcohol, for example, and there is no evidence that they have a greater drug problem than those with more restrictive attitudes. By Western standards, the U.S. has a very high percentage of alcohol abstainers, but also a very high rate of alcoholism, with 7% of the population being heavy drinkers and 23% binge drinkers (Wilson and Koalnder, p. 8). Alcohol and tobacco are more socially acceptable drugs than heroin and crack, and large industries exist that oppose a total ban on these drugs, even though they are at least as damaging to public health as the illegal variety. In recent times, marijuana also appears to be well on the way to becoming a socially acceptable drug, and even a medically useful one, and as with tobacco and alcohol, it has lobbyists and interest groups opposed to criminalization. Schools are already under severe budget pressures and have difficulty even teaching academic subjects, so teachers and administrators do not want the added burden of dealing with social problems that schools were never designed to handle. Drug prevention and education programs that do not involve the school and the larger community in a comprehensive way are almost certain to fail, though.

Prevention programs designed to discourage tobacco use on health grounds can be effective, since studies show that young people who do not smoke cigarettes are very unlikely to use any other drugs. Marijuana is the most common drug that high school students are likely to experiment with, although its role as a gateway drug has always been disputed. One study showed that "the vast majority of marijuana users do not go on to become heroin addicts," which was a common myth in the 1950s and 1960s. On the other hand, only 10% of crack users in high school had not used marijuana first, and frequent marijuana users are 140 times more likely to use other illegal drugs, so "prevention efforts that focus on nut using marijuana potentially will decrease the pool of marijuana users who will subsequently use other drugs" (Maisto et al., p. 269).

Very few people who experiment with drugs in their youth or in stressful situations will go on to develop a long-term dependence or addiction, and they will have the resiliency and self-control to avoid this problem on their own. Even among soldiers in Vietnam who regularly used heroin because of the stress of that war environment, very few continued to do so when they returned to the United States. For most people, then, no intervention will be necessary at all, since a natural life cycle seems to be at work in which those in their late teens and early twenties will experiment with drugs and alcohol, especially when they are first breaking free of parental and school control but have not yet established themselves in jobs, homes and families of their own. With adult responsibilities, experimentation will decline, except for the minority who become addicted to or dependent on drugs and alcohol. In reality, most of the money spent on treatment, education and intervention programs will be wasted, except for the social workers, bureaucrats and administrators employed by these programs. Moral panics, fear and anxieties about the rebellious young, or of black and immigrant males, none of these are new in American society and their real motivation is not really about the drug and alcohol problem at all.

REFERENCES

Goldberg, R. (2010). Drugs across… [END OF PREVIEW]

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