Alcohol and Marijuana Initiation


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The Dynamics of Alcohol and Marijuana Initiation

Alcohol and Marijuana are the most popular substances among adolescents in the United States. To prevent our youth from ever using marijuana or using alcohol too early, we must find out the exact age they are most likely to be initiated to it. Alcohol and Marijuana are often considered as gateway substances to other deadlier drugs. By delaying the onset of use by youths, we can prevent them from ever using other drugs. Many factors play into whether one adolescent is more at risk than another to be a future drug or substance abuser. Such things as age, sex, religious beliefs, parental responsibilities, and peers. This study that I am expounding upon, examines the dynamic patterns and predictions of alcohol and marijuana initiation.
This study examined how the risk for initiation changes over the course of adolescent development. The study uses a social development model to examine key features of control, social learning, and differential association theories. The model hypothesis that children learn patterns of behavior, whether pro-social or antisocial , from socializing agents such as family members, peers, and others.
The method by which the study was conducted is through questionnaire or survey. In September 1985, 18 Seattle elementary schools were identified that had over-representations of students from high-crime neighborhoods, according to police records. The study population included all fifth-grade students who attended these schools. The amount of participants numbered 1,053. Of the 1,053 students, 808 consented to participate in the study and made up this social development project sample. The number of students involved was comparable to other similar studies.
The data was collected in the fall of 1985, when most students were 10.5 years of age. (Median=10.7, mean=10.8, SD=0.52) In the spring of each succeeding year through 1991 and in the spring of 1993, when most participants were 18 years old, data was collected through the same questionnaire. Every time the students were asked to complete the questionnaire, they were given a monetary or small incentive. Each questionnaire took an hour in duration to complete.
The study separated the groups by one being exposed to a muticomponent preventive intervention in the first two years of the study. The initiation rates showed differences between the intervention and control groups. The full sample of students was balanced between male and female, (412 male, 396 females). Racial/Ethnic composition was 46% white, 24% black, 21% Asian, 6% Native American, 3% from other racial/ethnic groups.

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Large portions of participants were from relatively low-income households. Median annual income for the sample in 1985 was approximately $25,000. Forty six percent of parents reported a maximum family income below $20,000 a year. Forty two percent reported having only one-parent households.
The study’s definition of initiation was the first point at which a participant reported having more than just one sip or two of alcohol and the first time someone smoked marijuana. The predictions for initiation were: Parents’ pro-active family management combined six items assessing parents’ monitoring, rules, discipline, and reward practices. Parents’ substance use norm combined with parents’ permissiveness and rules about alcohol and drug use, along with participants’ perceived likelihood of being caught and punished for drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. Bonding to mother, friend’s substance use and participants substance use were also used. Higher scores, based on the participants’ answers, indicated better or worse family management, stronger norms against substance use, more bonding, and more substance use by peers or siblings.
The conclusion and results of the study seemed to show two different rates at which alcohol and marijuana had been initiated. For example; at the age of 10.5 years, 25% of the participants reported that they had tried alcohol, while only 3% had tried marijuana. These two rates showed very different trajectories in risk. Alcohol initiation rose sharply at age 13 to 64%, while marijuana only rose to only 13%. By age 18, the alcohol rate rose to a staggering 88%. And Marijuana initiation rose to 37%.
The study concluded with the results showing that from the age of 13 to 18, alcohol initiation skyrocketed. This seems to be mainly due to peer pressure, poor parental management and environmental factors. The same can be said of marijuana initiation. The flaws of this study include: The participants may not be giving truthful answers, especially when the subject in question is illegal or illicit. The adolescents being questioned may not be willing to tell the truth about about certain behaviors and exposure to illegal substances. They may fear retaliation if they answer that they have come in contact with these substances. Also, the figure of how many high school dropouts is omitted and could have impacted the results significantly


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