[Article via Psychology Today. Click above for full post]
Alcohol and substance use is widespread among adolescents with recent figures finding that 71% of students have tried alcohol and 54% have reported being drunk at least once by the time they leave high school. Similarly, 36% of teens have reported drinking and 16% have reported at least one drunk episode by the end of middle school (Johnston et al., 2011).
In and of itself, these statistics may not be that alarming, but when you think about the risk factors associated with early initiation, particularly drinking prior to the age of 15, the issue becomes more pertinent. Teenagers who report early drinking episodes are twice as likely to have alcohol-related problems later in life (Fergusson et al., 1994). The question then becomes what can we do to prevent early drinking?
There are many factors that relate to the onset of substance use and future problems, including peer substance use, family history of substance use, parental attachment, parental conflict in home, early conduct problems, as well as a host of other factors too vast to discuss in one post. Conduct problems, in particular, are important to consider. Young adult alcohol problems can be predicted from a number of adolescent antisocial behaviors, such as fighting and getting into trouble with law (Clapper et al., 1995).
One theory proposed could be that adolescents are simply bored. Reseach is still developing, but I can tell you what I’ve heard many times in my clinical work, “There just isn’t anything better to do.” One way researchers have tested this is by asking teens about their engagement in a variety of activities, such as sports, school clubs, shopping, organizations, dating, and dozens of other options, and whether they derive pleasure from these activities. Adult literature suggests that those with increased depression tend to engage in a decreased number of pleasurable activities, which is associated with increased smoking (Audrain-McGovern et al., 2011).
This research does not necessarily suggest a direct cause-effect link where more boredom leads to increased smoking. Instead, it suggests that those who are depressed tend to withdraw from pleasant activities and do not engage in reinforcing environments. This withdrawal and lack of engagement in pleasurable activities is associated with greater levels of smoking.
There is still more work to be done to prevent substance use problems and initiation in early adolescence. We need to…
[Rest of article is posted on Psychology Today. See below for link.]
Original article posted on Psychology Today. Read the rest of the post here at Psychology Today!
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