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This paper sets out to explore the literature on causes, trends and programs, as well as interventions present for the prevention of substance abuse among youths. The aim of this paper is to give an in-depth understanding of substance-use among youths, evaluate approaches necessary for prevention and suggestion of future steps that can be taken to curb the issue. The substances that this paper will cover include marijuana, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
Drug abuse among the youths in United States and elsewhere in the world declined in the 1980s. The decline in substance use was not due to the new substance prevention programs and approaches. The trends in substance use, in United States, and different parts of the world scale up despite the intense efforts that had put down in terms of programs to prevent the habit.
The number of teenagers that use tobacco in America is low; however, those who engage in drug use do so as early as 12 to 14 years. There is no single program that has successfully influenced the youth to stop drug use once they have begun. In this paper, a description and discussion of the prevalence rate and data of drug use among the youths will take precedence, then a description and assessment of the available literature concerning initiatives, programs and approaches to put a stop to young-looking drug problems. Lastly, there is the presentation of an analysis together with some recommendations.
Trends and Patterns in Substance Use and Abuse
Over the last decade, the prevalence rate of substance use among youths is Canada has increased. The widely used illicit drug is marijuana, 45 percent of youth above 15 years have in their lifetime use cannabis more than once and 14 percent reporting the use of the drug in the past year. In addition, one in every six individuals reports having used at least one of cocaine, hallucinogens, ecstasy and amphetamines; nonetheless, less than one percent indicated the use of the substances in the past year. Currently, drug use is highest among young adults and men in Canada (Harrison, 2006).
The patterns of substance use are in general well-known during adolescence. The early substance use among teenagers serves as a functional indicator of upcoming trends among youths. One third of Students from Ontario, in the late 1970s, reported having used an illicit drug in the precedent year. The prevalence rates declined in 1980s but gained momentum in the mid-1990s. For instance, between 1993 and 2003 the prevalence rates among Ontario youth almost tripled, this trend also occurred in other provinces. Recently, the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol and hallucinogens as well as use of cannabis has taken a rain check among the young adults. Some national studies conducted between 1998 and 2006 on substance use among youths in Canada indicated a modest decrease or no change among grade 9 and 10 students.
In 2008, drug use of cannabis, tobacco and other drugs between grade 7-12 students indicated an increase for both females and males with limited exceptions. Use of glue decreased for grade 7-9 students and an increase of non-medicinal use of treatment drugs. Prevalence of drug use among young adults also varies across regions, with increased patterns in British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta, and the rates were lower in Atlantic Provinces. The reasons for regional differences in prevalence rates are different access laws for drugs like cigarettes and alcohol, for instance, the legal age for drinking is lower in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Other reasons include availability of illicit drugs, economic conditions as well as prevention initiatives and programs (Scott, 1996).
The prevalence rate for lifetime drug use among young adults appears to be similar in Canada, Europe and United States. In 2006, 12.2 percent of US youth used illicit drugs other than cannabis as compared to 11.2 percent in 2008. Use of substances such as ecstasy, cocaine and tobacco were similar in the three countries, though to some extent lower among grade 8 US students in 2006 and 2008. The use of cannabis among US grade 8 students indicated a decline with a prevalence rate of 15.7% in 2006 and a 14.6% in 2008. Alcohol use among young adults is lower in United States as compared to Canada, though the rates are increasing in both countries. Among grade 8 students, United States reported a 38% of those having tried alcohol use in the precedent year with Canada reporting 21% for the same.
European counterparts reported similar lifetime drug use rates as those of Canada; however, their alcohol use rate is higher. This is because in 2007 around two thirds of the countries in Europe surveyed, 90 percent of youth aged between 15 and 16 report for having tried alcohol. Previous findings indicate that males are repeatedly more likely to report using illicit drugs compared to their female counterparts.
Developmental context of substance use
It is evident that adolescence is a developmental stage of experimentation and identity formation. Risk taking in terms of; dangerous driving, unsafe sex, and substance use among others are part of this developmental process. There is also varying motives for substance experimentation. For some youths, it is a form of sensation seeking or rebellion, alleviating boredom, facilitating social bonding, providing pleasure, satisfying curiosity, an escape mechanism or for attaining status. In this sense, drug use can either be a symbolic or functional behavior.
During the transition period into adulthood, drug use can symbolize autonomy and freedom, providing youth with an ostensibly adult status. Many youths try illicit drugs and alcohol during their adolescence period without being problem or frequent users. From a developmental perspective, substance use experimentation is normative during teenage years, and there will be a decline in use as one reaches mid-to-late 20s. This process of “maturing out” usually corresponds with the acceptance of adult responsibilities and roles. Though substance use experimentation is a normative behavior among youths, youthful substance use extracts substantial costs on a societal and personal level and for this reason is an extensive cause of concern. Substance abuse during adolescence has associated risks such as genetic susceptibility, poor parenting skills, academic underachievement, and peer rejection among others. Substance use and experimentation are a function of social and peer factors, whereas problem use and abuse relates to psychological and biological factors. This etiological variation implies that prevention approaches and initiatives should make a distinction between substance use and abuse (Levine, 2011).
Approaches to reducing substance use
Substance use prevention or reduction strategies can be classified based on certain dimensions. First, based on the objective or aim of a program, for instance, preventing harm, preventing use and preventing stigma. Secondly, based on strategy for instance, deterrence, regulation, persuasion and education among others. Thirdly, based on the institutional base, for instance, the community, the schools, the media, the courts, and family and finally, based on the target population, for instance, youth in general, heavy users, and high-risk youth.
Other programs that can be used in prevention of substance use include; Universal prevention programs which target the entire population, for instance, students with messages of delaying use or preventing. The next one is Selective prevention programs which target subgroups that have high susceptibility for substance abuse or use, for example, children from poor backgrounds or with poor academic achievements. The programs will focus on augmenting protective factors and reduce risk factors. Lastly, Indicated prevention programs, its main purpose is to put off abuse among individuals who are already using substances and have indicated early signs of misuse, for example, binge drinkers, or they have indicated signs of problems such as depression that will increase their likelihood of developing substance related problems. The intention of each program is to curb advancement in substance abuse as well as other problems that arise from substance abuse.
The recently growing approach is Harm reduction whose aim is not on abstinence, but to a certain extent to pass on information in order to curb the harm originating from substance use as well as to endorse drug-using skills that are safer. In this sense, perception of abstinence is as the eventual risk-reduction objective. Experts have argued that the acceptance of the occurrence of drug use is less equal to condoning use, and maintained that harm reduction programs should be incorporated in an extensive preventive approach, which aim at problem users as well as those with a high likelihood for harm (Andrews, 2005).
In conclusion, the outcome of various studies indicates that considerable proportions of youths are engaging in drug abuse with the trend accelerating each year. Most of the young adults especially teenagers are substance experimenters, thus trying out different drugs such as cannabis, tobacco and alcohol. This move gives an indication that the objective of abstinence may not serve realistically as a means of preventing or reducing drug abuse on a population level. Though abstinence should stay put, as a pivotal objective, initiatives and interventions should consider and acknowledge strategies that focus on experimentation and aim the headway of use.