THE third week of November is the Department of Health’s national Drug Abuse Detection and Prevention Week.
In this week’s column, we will be exploring social factors that had been observed in research studies as high-risk factors for drug use and eventual addiction. Among adults and teenagers, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nida) noted that the risk for using drugs increases significantly in periods of changes, particularly of transitions, from one social environment to another. Nida is an attached institution of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Among adults, the most commonly noted high-risk changes include the loss of job and separation between spouses. However, other factors had been found significant as well. For instance, social group pressure is also prominent in initiating adults, who are otherwise drug-free, to experiment on drugs with friends.
The social context of drug use parallels that of the familiar drinking group culture among Filipinos. Especially on Fridays, going out with the “barkadas” after work keeps the stresses of the week forgotten and the joys of earning money and spending it begins. Sometimes, when the idea of using drugs is introduced in the group and most of the people in the group agrees, those who do not agree will have a hard time deciding between using the drug with friends or standing up and walking away. Group pressure is as powerful among adults, even among married adults, as it is among teenagers. Sometimes, drug use, like alcohol use, can become a social escape from economic problems. And it is a mistake to assume that those who make more money have lower financial needs.
Among teenagers, the most commonly noted high-risk changes include parental separation, particularly when one parent leaves the family to stay in another residence; transfer of residence, which is often associated with losses of friendships in school and in the neighborhood; transfer from school to another; and transition from elementary through middle school, which usually involves a change of school or a new set of classmates.
Beyond these changes in the adolescent social environment, this age group may also further increase their risks to use drug with the increase in their amount of risk-taking behavior or activities. The edginess of risk-taking may be associated with a sense of euphoria that they may find in the use of drugs. Since control judgment in the brain often matures between ages 21 and 25, teenagers are prone to be tempted at experimenting with drug use but without the cognitive stability needed in judgment control. Thus, they will end up getting addicted to this illicit substance.
Thus, it is crucial that parents know their teenagers’ activities to protect them from these temptations until they are old enough to make the right choice.