Drug Abuse in Adolescence - Essay Example

Published: 2024-01-06
Drug Abuse in Adolescence - Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Drug abuse
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1090 words
10 min read


Adolescence is a stage of transition between childhood and adulthood. During this period, individuals experience physical, psychological, and social maturity. It is a significant stage because the individuals are no longer children, but still not yet adults. The individuals at these stages are typically energetic, fervent, and anxious, which makes them so autonomous when making decisions (Burke & Miczek, 2014). They also tend to have high levels of risk-taking behaviors, which bring different kinds of problems, especially drug abuse (Burke & Miczek, 2014). This paper thus aims to provide in-depth research on vulnerability, risk factors, and effective intervention of drug abuse among adolescents.

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Adolescents’ Vulnerability to Drug Abuse

According to Schramm-sapyta et al. (2009), there is a different balance in rewarding and aversive experiences of drugs of abuse among adolescents. The study was conducted using animal models. The use of rodent models is effective in examining behavioral tasks of substance use disorders (SUD), and they vary in both the validity and relevance in human conditions (Schramm-sapyta et al., 2009). Based on the animal model study, the balance in rewarding and aversive effects of drugs of abuse tilted towards the reward in adolescents. It was exhibited in the tenets of place preference and aversion (Schramm-sapyta et al., 2009). The results suggest that the increased consumption of drugs among adolescents is attributed to their vulnerability as compared to adults.

Additionally, the study by Schramm-sapyta et al. also reveals that adolescents are less responsive to the withdrawal effects (Schramm-sapyta et al., 2009). As a result, drug usage at early ages is promoted, and there is protection against compulsive drug-seeking. Adolescents experience numerous changes in terms of neuronal structure and functionality in their brains in relation to reward and habit formation (Schramm-sapyta et al., 2009). Such developments impact susceptibility and vulnerability to drug dependence among adolescents.

Risk Factors for Drug Abuse Among Adolescents

According to Chen et al. (2004), there is a positive connection between childhood sexual abuse and substance use in adolescents. Adolescents who had sexual abuse history are most likely to use cocaine, stimulants, together with other drugs, regularly than the other groups without a sexual abuse history. In the Chen et al. study, 70 % of women who had experienced sexual abuse while young reported using multiple drugs (Chen et al., 2004). When children undergo such experiences, they are likely to suffer from unusual poor self-image, which affects them, ensuing socialization negatively. Consequently, they may feel that the world is the most dangerous place. Drugs are used to deal directly with the emotional pain of the abuse or with the subsequent self-derogation. Additionally, a longitudinal study among the juvenile detainees reveals that early sexual victimization caused usage of marijuana and hashish.

According to Spooner (1999), genetics play a significant role in the development of drug abuse-related problems among adolescents. The study further revealed that genetic factors have a reasonable influence on the male and female risk of taking alcoholism while still young. There are specific genes that are involved in the pathophysiology of alcoholism that causes the said underlying issue of problematic alcohol usage among adolescents.

Attitudes and personality traits are also risk factors for drug abuse among adolescents, as stipulated in the control theory. When adolescents lack conventional attachment with social groups like family and churches, deviant behaviors are like to arise, which may lead to drug abuse. According to Spooner (1999), personality traits like a low sense of social responsibility and resistance to traditional authority are predictive of early usage of drugs.

Furthermore, family factors are major buffering factors that influence childhood and later adaptations (Spooner, 1999). They are mostly those which are based on the quality and consistency of family management, communications, relationships together with the parental role-modeling. For example, lack of discipline, and inconsistent discipline, negativity in communications like criticisms, and poor family relationships are identified as key factors that make adolescents start abusing drugs (Spooner, 1999). Other factors like parental criminality, a parent abusing drugs, and anti-social behaviors have both direct and indirect influence on adolescents’ engagement in substance usage.

Additionally, according to Burke and Miczek (2014), the inherent stress in adolescents is a significant risk factor for indulgence in substance abuse. There are many stressing cases during the adolescence period. The study suggests that there is the ultimate behavioral maturation, dopamine structures, as well as HPA axis at the adolescence stage (Burke & Miczek, 2014). The adolescence stresses raises amphetamine- and ethanol-stimulated locomotion, preference, together with the self-administration.

Effective Intervention

Both cognitive and behavioral coping strategies can be used to prevent drug abuse among adolescents. Consequently, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and integrated behavioral and family therapy (IBFT) are the commonly used mechanism, especially for risky sexual behavior, and are both effective (Hops et al., 2011). The coping skills like withdrawal, assertiveness, social support, and relaxation are as well effective interventions (Hops et al., 2011). Teaching coping and relapse prevention skills and offering quality support is very effective in dealing with emotional barriers among adolescents (Spooner, 1999).


Adolescents are more vulnerable to drug abuse due to the numerous inherent changes in terms of neuronal structure and functionality that occur during the adolescence stage. Based on the current research, the major risk factors of drug abuse in adolescents are childhood sexual abuse, genetics, attitudes and personality traits, family factors, and stress. The major effective interventions for drug abuse in adolescents involve integrating cognitive and behavioral coping strategies.


Burke, A. R., & Miczek, K. A. (2014). Stress in adolescence and drugs of abuse in rodent models: Role of dopamine, CRF, and HPA axis. Psychopharmacology, 231(8), 1557-1580.

Chen, X., Tyler, K. A., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2004). Early sexual abuse, street adversity, and drug use among female homeless and runaway adolescents in the Midwest. Journal of drug issues, 34(1), 1-21.

Hops, H., Ozechowski, T. J., Waldron, H. B., Davis, B., Turner, C. W., Brody, J. L., & Barrera, M. (2011). Adolescent health-risk sexual behaviors: Effects of a drug abuse intervention. AIDS and Behavior, 15(8), 1664.

Schramm-Sapyta, N. L., Walker, Q. D., Caster, J. M., Levin, E. D., & Kuhn, C. M. (2009). Are adolescents more vulnerable to drug addiction than adults? Evidence from animal models. Psychopharmacology, 206(1), 1-21.
http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.pgcc.edu/10.1007/s00213-009- 1585-5

Spooner, C. (1999). Causes and correlates of adolescent drug abuse and implications for treatment. Drug and Alcohol Review, 18(4), 453-475.

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