“Since the beginning of history humans have searched for substances that would sustain and protect them and also act on the nervous system to produce pleasurable sensations” (Santrock, 2007). Drugs provide people with a temporary way to cope with the difficulties of life, to feel comfortable in social settings, and to feel good about whom they are. Adolescents are no different. They too use drugs to gain these temporary feelings and sensations.
“Drug abuse among young people is one of the greatest challenges of our time” (Shedler and Black, 1990). The prevalence of drug use among adolescents is a disturbing phenomenon that has been investigated for decades. When adolescents abuse drugs, their lives can be adversely affected (Jenkins & Zunguze, 1998; Wynn, Schulenberg, Kloska, & Laetz, 1997). In an effort to uncover the underlying causes of this phenomenon, researchers have highlighted peer influence as one of the key factors in determining drug use (Jenkins & Zunguze, 1998). Thus, the purpose of this paper is to analyze research articles that examine the relationship between peer influence and drug use among adolescents.
In their study, Olds and Thombs (2001) compared the implication of peer behavior and parental involvement with regards to their effects on cigarette and alcohol use among adolescents from grades seven to twelve. The hypothesis of this study is that young teenagers who engage in cigarette and alcohol use are more likely to be affected by insufficient parental involvement. In contrast, older teenagers are more likely to be influenced by their peers in their decision to use cigarettes and alcohol (Olds& Thombs, 2001).
By using questionnaires, Olds and Thombs (2001) obtained responses about the cigarette and alcohol use of the teen participants. The study indicated that most students, regardless of the grade level, engaged in cigarette and alcohol use in order to imitate their close friends and “fit in” with the typical student population (Olds& Thombs, 2001). Although Olds and Thombs (2001) asserted that the results did not undermine the significance of parental involvement in adolescent drug use, they contradicted themselves by stating that parents play a more important role in influencing their children before seventh grade.
According to Denise Witmer (2007) there are ten things that a parent can do to prevent their adolescent from using drugs: 1.
Be there for your teen when he needs to get out of a bad situation. Be the scapegoat: ‘I can’t do that, my parents would kill me!’ Or be the parent who will pick up your teen without repercussions if he finds the party he’s gone too has drugs available or her date has been drinking. 2.
Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents on a first name basis. This will help you know what your teen is doing and you may make a good friend to boot! 3.
Keep connected in the after school hours. If you can’t be home with your teen, call and leave notes. Have another adult supervise your teen or sign him up for an after school program. If these things aren’t possible, establish a routine for your teenager and keep him busy during this time. 4.
Talk to your teen often about drugs. Use ice breakers from television shows or the radio in the car. Remember these are conversations, not lectures. 5.
Get your teen involved in extra-curricular activities. Schools offer sports or clubs and community organizations offer classes and youth groups. These will help him mold his identity in a positive way and give him less time doing nothing and becoming bored. Studies have shown teens that have less time to just hang out are less likely to do drugs. 6.
Ask questions when your teen makes plans to go out. Who will he be with, where is he going, what will he be doing, etc. Then check up on him. Call other parents and do this together. 7.
Be a role model. If you drink, drink responsibly - and don’t ever use illegal drugs. 8.
References: Engels, R.C.M.E., and ter Bogt, T. (2001, December). Influences of risk behaviors on the quality of peer relations in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30, 675-695.
Jenkins, J.E., and Zunguze, S.T. (1998, Winter). The relationship of family structure to adolescent drug use, peer affiliation and perception of peer acceptance of drug use. Adolescence, 33, 811-812.
Olds, R.S., and Thombs, D.L. (2001, August). The relationship of adolescent perception of peer norms and parent involvement to cigarette and alcohol use. Journal of School Health, 71, 223-235.
Santrock, J.W. (2007). Adolescence, Eleventh Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Shedler, J. and Block, J. (1990, May). Adolescent Drug Use and Psychological Health. American Psychologists, 613-630.
Tani, C.R., Chavez, E.L., and Deffenbacher, J.L. (2001, Spring). Peer isolation and drug use among white non-Hispanic and Mexican American adolescents. Adolescence, 36, 127-137.
Witmer, D. (2007). Your Guide to Parenting of Adolescents: Top ten things you can do to prevent your teen from using drugs. Retrieved on November 12, 2007 from http://parentingteens.about.com/od/teendruguse/tp/drug_prevention.htm
Wynn, S.R., Schulenberg, J., Kloska, D.D., and Laetz, V.B. (1997, November). The mediating influence of refusal skills in preventing adolescent alcohol misuse. Journal of School Health, 67, 390-395.
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