Drug use and abuse amongst adolescents is prevalent and has been a major problem since the 1960’s. The reasons for abusing drugs and the type of drugs being used may have changed, but little inroads have been made in stamping out this crisis in America’s youth. Drug use includes not only illegal substances but licit substances such as alcohol and tobacco. A 2006 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey returned the results that abuse of prescription drugs has now taken the place as the second most prevalent drug problem in the United States among adolescents (ClarendonHills.
com, 2007). Intervention programs have proven to be useful in combating the prevalence of abuse and education in a child’s developmental years through programs such as D. A. R. E. and become a key factor in preventing drug use. In fact, preliminary results of a privately-funded survey with former D. A. R. E. -educated students already shows a very positive influence (ClarendonHills. com, 2007). “The United States achieves the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of adolescent drug abuse among the industrialized nations of the world” (Liddle, et al, 2001).
Recent statistics show that just less than half of junior high and high school age students have used an illicit drug by the time they graduate (Johnston, et al, 2006, 5) while 80% will experiment with alcohol and the use of marijuana is experiencing a recent upsurge (White, 2004, 2). According to White, “alcohol kills more young people than all other drugs combined” and the scary part is that children usually learn the habit from their parents.
For adolescents undergoing changes in their bodies and their minds and experiencing an instinct to do things that are daring or to rebel against authority (White, 2004, 2), the combination of a readily available drug and a mind set that is unaware of the potential danger can be a lethal one. According to D. A. R. E. , drug use has decreased 19% since the inception of its program in 75% of school districts in the United States.
In a 30-year study sponsored by Monitoring the Future jointly with the National Institute on Drug Use, nearly 50,000 students in junior high and high school participated beginning with a questionnaire regarding the perceived availability, perceived risk and disapproval of drug usage with follow-up research at the 10th grade level and finally in 12th grade. The study identifies the “cohort effect” which refers to “lasting differences between class cohorts that stay with them as they advance through school and beyond” (Johnston, et al, 2006, 5). Trends in increases and decreases of drug use will follow a group of students.
This factor specifically shows that increased awareness through education can make a lasting difference in an adolescent’s life, particularly if he is involved with a group that disapproves or is wary of drug use. Particularly troubling regarding the problem of drug use is that the brain of an adolescent is still developing and alcohol, in particular, “impacts brain function and behavior” in a much more concentrated way than it does in adults (White, 2004, 4). Educational efforts that can reach children before their brain functioning is impaired by alcohol or drug use will clearly show a benefit not only to the individual, but to society.
Because adolescents are dependent on their peers for socializing and spend the majority of their time around others the same age (White, 2004, 6), it is important that drug and alcohol educational programs target the group as a whole. Key risk factors include an “association with substance-using peers” (Swaim, 1991) and drug use causes antisocial behavior in an individual which leads to a larger, societal problem (Taylor & Carey, 1998). The desire to take risks is an inherent part of adolescence and a trait that has evolved with the human species (White, 2004, 7).
We cannot keep young adults from wanting to take risks and try new things nor should we; what we can do is educate them to the safety or danger of the risks they choose to undertake. Several states have shown the effectiveness of anti-meth ad campaigns by pictorially portraying meth addicts as diseased and almost akin to the likes of a horror movie monster. In Montana, where such ads have been in place for several years, meth-related crime has decreased 53% while a decline of 70% has been seen in workers testing positive for meth use (The Meth Project, 2007, 2). Gender also plays a key role in determining the risk of drug use in adolescents.
According to an Oxford University research study using anonymous self-reporting, males were more likely to have tried drugs, including cigarettes and opiates, than their female counterparts (2004, 63). This difference may be caused by the relationship of the male to his peers or his increased tendency to exhibit risk-taking behaviors. Distinct patterns of predicting drug and alcohol abuse in males and females have emerged with differing risk factors based on gender (Becker & Grilo, 2005). Clearly prior research shows the need for intervention to prevent drug use in adolescents.
All educational efforts have proven their worth in decreased abuse and usage rates. As a professional in the community, social workers have the opportunity to positively impact the adolescents who will become tomorrow’s leaders. Methodology The proposed research method will rely on structured educational forums regarding the dangers of drugs and the effects of their use on the adolescent as well as the adult who cannot control his addiction. By showing the dangers in graphic form, it is hoped that the adolescents will gain a clearer perspective on the life-altering effects of drug abuse.
Videos as well as airings of the anti-meth advertising campaigns that have been successful in several states will be shown along with several real-life cases of people who are drug-addicted and the telling of their own stories, in their own words. By focusing on real dangers and real threats, the anti-drug message should hit home for these adolescents. The educational program will be voluntary with surveys regarding personal drug use, types of drugs tried and the availability of drugs, both illegal and licit, administered both before the advent of the program and after it has concluded over a period of two semesters.
A later follow-up survey questioning current drug use for high school seniors could also be performed with the same groups. Participants will be secondary school level students with no prior formal education experience regarding the abuse of drugs. A control group of secondary school students will be used to compare results. As well, the participants will be grouped according to gender, with the students’ identity when given the surveys kept in strict anonymity for the purpose of eliciting honest responses.
It is expected that responses to the questions regarding drug use and/or experimentation will show a marked decrease at the end of the educational program. It is also expected that the initial surveys completed by the adolescents will show a difference in the amount and length of abuse separated by gender. The impact of the educational program will be evaluated using the second set of survey responses. The questions that will be answered by performing this research are thus: 1) How much of an impact will drug and alcohol education make on the decision of the adolescents to use or experiment with drugs?
2) Will there be a significant difference in drug use or experimentation between the control group and those attending the intervention program? 3) Is there a significant difference between gender in drug use? The use of intervention in the form of educational programs for our youth is critical in preventing the spread and continued usage of drugs. “The problems of substance abuse among American young people continue to remain sufficiently widespread to merit concern” (Johnson et al, 2006, 14).
“Adolescent substance abuse develops on several, sometimes intersecting, pathways … hence its designation as a multidimensional and multidetermined phenomenon requiring interventions that address these multiple domains of functioning” (Liddle et al, 2001). References Becker, Daniel F. & Grilo, Carlos M. (October, 2005). Prediction of drug and alcohol abuse in hospitalized adolescents: Comparisons by gender and substance type. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Volume 44, Issue 10. 1431-1440. Clarendon Hills (August, 2007). Is DARE really making an impact? Retrieved October 1, 2007 from the DARE Web site: http://www.
dare. com/home/HometownDAREUSA/impact_of_dare. asp. Johnston, Lloyd D. , O’Malley, Patrick M. , Bachman, Jerald G. & Schulenberg, John E. (2006). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: overview on key findings 2006. NIH Publication Number 07-6202. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Use. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from the Monitoring the Future Web site: http://monitoringthefuture. org/pubs/monographs/overview2006. pdf. Liddle, Howard A. , Dakof, Gayle A. , Parker, Kenneth, Diamond, Guy S. , Barrett, Kimberley & Tejeda, Manuel (November, 2001).
Multidimensional family therapy for adolescent drug abuse: results of a randomized clinical trial. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved October 1, 2007 from the FindArticles. com. Web site: http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m0978/is_4_27/ai_80771914 Rodham, Karen, Hawton, Keith, Evans, Emma & Weatherall, Rosamund (November, 2004). Ethnic and gender differences in drinking, smoking and drug taking among adolescents in England. Journal of Adolescence. Volume 28, Issue 1. Swaim, Randall C. (November, 1991). Childhood risk factors and alcohol and drug abuse. Educational Psychology Review. Volume 3, Number 4. 363-398.