Factors Contributing to the Rise of Drug Use among Youths, and What Can Be Done To Curb It
24th, March 2013
The family unit is the foundation of society. This is a representative of the society, since ideally; the family comprises parents and their children, who live in harmony, as a community. As the overall society, the family unit in the United States today is faced with a variety of challenges and obstacles. Drug abuse is one of the major problems the family unit is experiencing. However, this is not a problem in the United States only. In 2006, the WHO World Drug Report indicated that 200 million people or 5 percent of the world’s population have used illegal drugs in the past 12 months. 25 million people aged 15-64, in the world are addicted to drugs. In the USA, the report showed that marijuana and amphetamines are the most abused drugs (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2006). However, over the years, drug use in young people in the US has increased, since today, 9.5 percent of youth aged 12-17 are drug users (UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2006). This study therefore, addresses the case of drug abuse among the youth, including in the American context. The findings will help answer the research question: What are the factors contributing to the rise of drug use among youths, and what can be done to curb it?
There are different factors responsible for the increased drug use among the youth today, depending on the context of the youth involved. These include easy access and availability of drugs, increased stress levels, addiction, and unstable families. Prevention and control of this can be through family involvement in recovery programs for affected youth, as well as development of community-based support groups for the treatment and recovery process.
Importance of Topic
Drug abuse is a social problem, which is deeply rooted in the American society. This social issue needs solutions. Many young people are victims of drug abuse, and this has detrimental effects on their social life. Dependence on drugs might make a young person drop out of school and alter their social relations, even with family. This therefore, ruins the future of a young person, who could have participated in nation building. On the other hand, the government spends big amount of finances in addressing the issue of drug abuse among the youth. This therefore, influences the economy negatively. Conducting research on the issue of drug use among young people will help in harnessing important knowledge, which can be used to reframe the right and effective remedies to this problem. This will help save government funds used on drug issue, to be invested in more developmental projects, and the youth will break free from their drug addictions and lead a more productive life.
Young people continue to use drugs because they are addicted to it. Therefore, addiction makes youth persist in drug use (Louw, 1994). According to Matthews (2010, p. 23), addiction is “. . . a tendency to repeat an intensely pleasurable experience, whatever the nature of that experience might be. . . The particular chemistry of the substance involved in this particular form of pleasure is, they argue, irrelevant—all that matters is that the experience it gives someone is pleasant.” Similarly, Sussman, Lisha, and Griffiths (2011, p.4), have defined addiction as “a disorder in which an individual becomes intensely preoccupied with a behavior that at first provides a desired or appetitive effect.” Unlike compulsion and involuntary movement, Matthews (2010) argues that people suffering from addiction have a will power, since they can choose to give up their addictions. However, in most case, addicts, including drug addicts find it hard to give up their addictions (Matthews, 2010). Drug addicts, like any other addicts, will give up their family and social responsibilities, as well as their long-term self-interests in pursuit of their addictions (Matthews, 2010). Sussman, Lisha, and Griffiths (2011) argue that people suffering from addiction experience a loss of control, making it hard for them to choose between moving away from their addictions or continuing in it.
Young people use drugs because these drive them into oblivion, making them forget their stressful and depressing lives (Louw, 1994). People do not get addicted to something just because of the pleasures it presents them. Matthews (2010) argues that not all people who find eating chocolate pleasurable get addicted to chocolate. However, for drugs, it is quite a different case. Most people, according to Matthews (2010), get addicted to drug use mainly because of the oblivion it presents them. One might not find using drugs pleasurable, but the capability of drugs to make one forget things that trouble them is what might cause most people to be addicted to drugs (Matthews, 2010). The more troubled a person is, the higher his chances of pursuing oblivion in drugs. Therefore, Matthews (2010) is careful to note that, “Addiction in this sense is indeed a problem that needs help, because it isolates the addict from the kinds of relationships with others that best express our humanity” (p.26). It is thus, important that appropriate programs be developed to help the young people in society today using drugs, out of their addiction.
Sussman, Lisha, & Griffiths (2011) conducted a study to establish the prevalence of addictions, including drug and substance addictions in the United States. These used secondary data from 83 different studies, which had a minimum of 500 study subjects. Their findings showed that at least 47 per cent of the US population suffers from an addiction. Prevalence of tobacco among the adults in the US was found to be 21.6% for males, and 17.8% for females, while prevalence of cigarette smoking in the US was 15 percent. In their analysis, they considered addiction to be a problem in the life of most Americans. Addiction to drugs if terminated abruptly presents many negative symptoms such as depression, irritability, and anxiety to the drug users. The addicts therefore, will choose to continue using drugs, believing “it is the best solution to resolve these negative symptoms” (Sussman, Lisha, & Griffiths, 2011, p. 6). Therefore, the withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction are lethal, thus, making young people to persist in drug use.
According to Louw (1994), easy availability and accessibility of drugs in the society is a major factor contributing to drug use among young people. Hadland et al. (2012) conducted a study in Vancouver, Canada to establish the availability of cocaine, crack, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine. Their findings showed that more adults had easier access to drugs than young people, as these could access drugs within 10 minutes. Crack, marijuana, and cocaine were the most available drugs. On the other hand, young people had easy access to crystal methamphetamine. Canada is a country, whose government has implemented strict drug laws to combat drug and substance abuse (Hadland et al., 2012). However, despite the drug laws, Canadians still have easy access to drugs. This reveals the ineffectiveness of drug laws in the country. Hadland et al. (2012) propose that governments should invest in “. . . preventive, treatment, and harm reduction strategies” (p.488), to curb the high prevalence of drug use in the population.
Dysfunctional families, unstable families, and homelessness is another lead cause of drug use among young people. Louw (1994) argues that problems in the family, such as divorce or molestation, might make a youth to use drugs as a form of escapism from reality. A study conducted by Thompson, et al. (2010) among the homeless youth in the United States revealed that the estrangement associated with homelessness highly contributes to the increased use of drugs and other substances among the homeless young people. The results showed that between 39-70 percent of homeless youth use drugs, with tobacco as the most prevalent, followed by marijuana. Most importantly, the major factors of estrangement among the homeless young people, which contribute to their increased use of drugs, include identification with the homeless culture and psychological dysfunction, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and trauma, which is relatively high among the homeless youth (Thompson, et al., 2010). Similarly, Louw (1994) has argued that emotional instability and psychological disorders such as neuroticism, anxiety, guilt, and depression also contribute to increased drugs use among the youth.
Different strategies at the national and family levels have been put in place to curb the increased use of drugs among young people. Evans, et al. (2012) note that issues related with drug use are not similar in all the races present in the United States. Therefore, while the addiction levels might vary among the different races, so shall the treatment and recovery process of addiction. Apart from the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which help in drug addiction recovery, Evans, et al. (2012) note the importance of support groups within communities and religions. AA registers a small number of people of color, since the Whites dominate it. Therefore, Evans, et al. (2012) have emphasized the importance of community based support groups offering recovery of the addicts, since the addicts will feel more comfortable around people of their ethnicity. The development of more community-based support groups is effective in curbing the increased use of drugs among young people, the treatment and recovery process of addicts in such groups is more efficient.
The family unit also plays an important role in the recovery process of young people addicted to drugs. Hornberger & Smith (2011) therefore, suggest that family involvement in the youth’s recovery and treatment process is critical, since the family is part of the problem and solution to drug use among young people. Evidence has shown that when families are part of the recovery and treatment programs of addicts, the recovery process is more effective. Thus, today, most policy makers, administrators, and practitioners have increased family involvement in different recovery programs for young people (Hornberger & Smith, 2011).
Common Themes in the Literature Review
Different ideas of the different authors, which have been used in the literature review reflect a similar pattern of thought concerning the issue of drug use among the youth. For instance, different authors have identified importance of the family unit as contributing to drug use among the youth. This is through conflicts in the family, divorce of parents, and child molestation, among others, which make the youth seek solace in drugs. Additionally, dysfunctional families extend to homelessness, which also contributes to increased drug use among the youth. Instability in families results in estrangement of the youth, making them to indulge in drug use.
Generally, emotional instability and personality disorders such as anxiety and depression have been identified as indicators of drug use. These occur because of different reasons. For instance, withdrawal from drug use might cause depression, stressful events in life might also cause depression, strained relationships, among others, also cause depression and anxiety. Therefore, the youth might see the need to escape from their depression and anxiety, and most do resort to drug use. Most authors have addressed all these factors either directly or indirectly.
The sources used have emphasized intervention for drug addiction of youth, which is based on the family institution. For instance, Evans, et al. (2012) insists on the development of more ethnic-based support groups for drug addicts. Ethnicity is based on genetic relations, since most people will identify themselves as belonging to a certain ethnicity. Therefore, an ethnic group might serve purposes related to those of a family, in terms of giving an individual a sense of identity. On the other hand, Hornberger & Smith (2011) have emphasized the importance of family involvement in the recovery programs of addicts. They have argued that if family is involved, the addict might experience a form of acceptance, thus, making the recovery process to be faster. What was most surprising is when Evans, et al. (2012) emphasize on community-based support groups, basing on the idea that groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous might not attract addicts from the minority ethnicities, since these are dominated by the Whites. This therefore, raises concerns about the role of ethnicity in support groups. Nonetheless, support groups and family involvement remain important approaches in helping youth affected by drugs to regain their normal life. In support groups, and with the involvement of their families, they feel they are not alone and experience acceptance, which is critical in recovery. However, the research has not addressed prevention of drug use among the youth. This is also important, since each day, a young person is introduced to drug use.
Media Reports on Drug Use among the Youth
The New York Times in December 2011 reported about the increased use of Marijuana in the US, basing on a study that had been concluded by a number of researchers (O’connor, 2011). In another publication, the New York Times provided in-depth information about drug abuse, while referring to different types of drugs and their negative effects (The New York Times, n.d). On the other hand, the Guardian newspaper in October 2012 published a report of a research study, where experts advocated for the decriminalization of drugs in order to curb drug abuse (Travis, 2012). Additionally, in their 2010 newsletter, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released data showing the prevalence of drug use among the American youth (SAMHSA NEWS, 2010). The media is a critical organ in the issue of drug issue among the youth today. This should help in creating awareness of drug use and its negative effects. The efforts of the media in this drugs issue are not satisfactorily. Most media channels only focus on the state of the situation, presenting data on the prevalence of drug use, but do not help in structuring strategies, which might be effective in curbing drug use among the youth. Presenting people with data showing high prevalence of drug use in the country, without preventive and control strategies might be same as popularizing drug abuse, and most youth might start to get interested. Sometimes the media, through various films and music, has presented drug use in youth as fashionable, and a process of initiation into the youthful stage.
Impact of the Study on my Perspective
Before the study, I held the assumption that youth who indulge in drug use deliberately choose that way. However, the different sources used in this study have enlightened me about the role of family in this problem. The family is the root cause of drug use among the youth today. All the problems youth face, which drive them to drug use, have their roots in the family unit and social relations, if well traced. Therefore, I now understand that most youth, who use drugs, are just but victims of circumstances. Since they lack other ways of solving their troubles, they think of drugs as an option. This is why the family must be involved in the recovery process of youth drug addicts.
This research is relevant to the field of Social Sciences, including social science professionals, since it addresses a social issue. As an individual in the social science profession, I have broader role to play. However, with regard to this research, I have the role of contributing to ways of curbing drug use among the youth, which is a vast social problem today. Through the study, there is knowledge of the predictors of drug abuse, as well as possible solutions. Therefore, I am obliged to help raise awareness that drug use is a serious health issue, which has negative outcomes. I also need to challenge the popular belief, which challenges the social artifact that drug use is an acceptable rite of passage for the youth. Efforts today are in place to curb drug use among the youth. This is evident through the different agencies and services in communities, which help to curb drug use among the youth. These are national based, while others are based at the community level. Nonetheless, with more efforts and commitment to drug abuse prevention and control, it is possible that this social problem will be addressed in future.
Resource List of Agencies/Services that Respond to Drug Use among the Youth
I. Alcoholics Anonymous
II. Arts and Education in Concert (AEIC)
III. Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies in Nevada
IV. The American Council for Drug Education
V. The National Institute on Drug Abuse
VI. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
VII. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
VIII. Sober Recovery
Evans, et al. (2012). Ethnic-Speciﬁc Support Systems as a Method for Sustaining Long-Term
Addiction Recovery. Journal of Groups in Addiction & Recovery, 7, 171–188.
Hadland, et al. (2012). Ready Access to Illicit Drugs among Youth and Adult Users. The
American Journal on Addictions, 21, 488–490.
Hornberger, S. & Smith, S. (2011). Family involvement in adolescent substance abuse treatment
and recovery: What do we know? What lies ahead? Children and Youth Services Review 33, S70–S76.
Louw, S. (1994). Factors Contributing to Adolescent Drug Abuse. Retrieved from
Matthews, E. (2010). Explaining Addiction. Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. 17 (1), 23-
Sussman, S., Lisha, N. & Griffiths, M. (2011). Evaluation & the Health Professions
Thompson, et al. (2010).Estrangement factors associated with addiction to alcohol and drugs
among homeless youth in three U.S. cities. Evaluation and Program Planning 33, 418–427.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (June 2006).World Drug Report 2006. Vol. 1,
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O’connor. A. (14 December, 2011). Marijuana Use Growing Among Teenagers. The New York
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SAMHSA NEWS (2010). New Survey Data Show Drug Use Rising. Retrieved from
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Travis, A. (15 October 2012). Decriminalize drug use, say experts after six-year study. The
Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/oct/15/decriminalise-drug-use-say-experts
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