“Risk Factors for Serious Alcohol and Drug Uses” by Maury

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1204
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College

Title of the Article

The title of the journal article is “Risk Factors for Serious Alcohol and Drug Use: The Role of Psychosocial Variables in Predicting the Frequency of Substance Use Among Adolescents” (Nation and Heflinger 415).

Summary of the Article

The article describes a study that was done to investigate the link between the four most common risk factors, and drug and alcohol use among adolescents. The four risk factors in the article include psychological functioning, stressful life events, peer relationships, and family factors. The article also describes the main factors that need to be considered when designing treatment programs for adolescent drug users (Nation and Heflinger 415).

The participants of the study were adolescents drawn from various abuse treatment programs. More than 60% of the respondents were adolescents who were directed to attend the treatment programs by the court. The participants included both boys and girls aged between 12 and 18 who had taken part in the Adolescents in Substance Abuse Treatment Study, which was organized by either the Substance Abuse and Prevention Block, or Medicaid (Nation and Heflinger 420).

The sample size used in the study consisted of 214 drug-abuse adolescents undergoing treatment in public-funded programs. In order to achieve a well-balanced sample, 22% of the participants were drawn from adolescents in outpatient services, while the rest were taken from inpatient and residential treatment services. The racial representation was as follows: 28% Black, 60% White, and 12% others.

The study described in the article was done through a survey, using data from youth based reports. The data was retrieved from youth reports published by public-funded programs for adolescents with drug abuse problems. The variables obtained from the study were measured using different methods.

The first variable, peer relationships, was measured using a 12-item scale that was designed by the Six State Risk/Protective Factor Survey. Family conflicts and the family environment were measured using 9-item and 3-item scales respectively, which were designed by the family environment scale. Negative events in life were assessed through a 13-item scale, which was designed by the Comprehensive Adolescent Severity Index (CASI) (Nation and Heflinger 422).

Another scale designed by the CASI was also used to assess the frequency of alcohol and drug use. Lastly, family alcohol and drug use were assessed using a 2-item interview based on whether any of the adolescents’ family members used alcohol or other drugs (Nation and Heflinger 423). The items used in the study to measure the variables were extremely effective; consequently, the study was as effective as intended.

Authors’ Conclusion

The study found out that there exist several strong associations connecting the factors that cause adolescents to engage in alcohol and drug use. The study found out that that there is a positive correlation between family relations and peers of adolescents. However, this is not in line with several previous studies, which found out the existence of a strong correlation between adolescents’ peers and family relationships. Apart from the family relationships and adolescents’ peers, other variables such as psychological problems and delinquency were also strongly interconnected (Nation and Heflinger 427).

The authors, through their regression analysis, were able to prove that the four risk factors are the main causes of the significant difference between alcohol and other frequently used drugs as well as other rarely used substances such as inhalants and crack. The study showed that adolescents tend to use alcohol, marijuana, opiates, and hallucinogens as a result of risk factors such as family history of drug use, peer influence, and psychological problems.

The authors maintain that psychological factors constitute the main causes of substance use and abuse among adolescents. According to the article, psychological problems should be given the greatest consideration when designing treatment programs for adolescents (Nation and Heflinger 428).

The article suggests that treatment programs for adolescents with alcohol and drug abuse problems should be designed in such a way that they effectively address psychological issues and other risk factors. For instance, the programs should be able to alter the relationship between the way adolescents view delinquency and drug use, and the way they choose their peers.

The programs should guide adolescents on how they can choose the right peers to help them minimize chances of becoming victims of drug use problems and delinquency. The programs should also put more emphasis on helping adolescents build a better psychological performance (Nation and Heflinger 428).

Critique of Authors’ Work

The authors considered a number of aspects that would make the study stronger and more conclusive. Firstly, they did their best to ensure that the sample remained as representative and inclusive as possible. The sample consisted of adolescents drawn from several public-funded treatment programs. This was done to ensure that the sample represented adolescents from different regions. The sample was representative of both sexes as it comprised 75% boys and 25% girls.

The sample also represented different races, including Whites, Blacks and other races. This was to ensure that the findings were conclusive and that they reflected the discrepancies arising from the different races.

Secondly, the authors considered all the ethical aspects that were supposed to be included in the study; they also ensured that none of them was violated. For instance, before the authors conducted the study, they asked for permission from the relevant authority. The permission to conduct the study was granted by the Vanderbilt University Institutional Review Board. The adolescent participants who were included in the study also had their full consent obtained to avoid violating their privacy rights (Nation and Heflinger 21).

Apart from the considerations of the ethical issues, the authors also enhanced the validity and reliability of their findings by using reliable tools for measuring the obtained variables and analyzing the results. For example, the authors assessed factors, such as psychological functioning and frequency of alcohol and drug abuse use, using Youth Self-Report and CASI scales respectively. The measurement items are very reliable and are known to produce valid results (Nation and Heflinger 423). The bivariate analysis and the regression analysis used in the study are very effective ways of evaluating the results (Nation and Heflinger 24).

Although the study was carried out under a well controlled environment, which has several strengths, it also had a few limitations. Firstly, the items used to assess family cohesion, conflict and substance use were unable to measure all the family characteristics; consequently, it was difficult for the study to determine fully, the relationship between family characteristics and peers (Nation and Heflinger 427).

Secondly, since the sample consisted of only adolescents joining the treatment program, the study limited the authors’ opportunity to investigate other rarely used substances such as inhalants. Lastly, the study conducted to determine the relationships connecting the numerous risk factors could have been adversely affected by multicollinierity (Nation and Heflinger 428).

Reasons for Choosing the Article

  1. The article was published in a journal on drug and alcohol abuse.
  2. The article demonstrates the major factors that make adolescents abuse drugs.
  3. The article provides several ways and suggestions for designing effective treatment programs for adolescents with drug and alcohol abuse problems.
  4. The findings from the article can be used by schools, parents and the criminal justice system to control and prevent drug and substance abuse among adolescents.

Work Cited

Nation, Maury, and Craig Anne Heflinger. “Risk Factors for Serious Alcohol and Drug Use: The Role of Psychosocial Variables in Predicting the Frequency of Substance Use Among Adolescents.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 32.1 (2006): 415-433. Print.