Every year, a significant number of young people die from exposure to and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs against the huge cost that are invested into projects that have the aim of reducing these numbers. 400000 Americans die every year of smoking and smoking related conditions, in fact one of every 5 deaths in America is assumed to be smoking related (National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2011). Alcohol was no lesser a threat over in 1992, it was estimated that about $400billion was the amount wasted or lost to alcohol addiction. Other costs include chronic disease conditions like cirrhosis, criminal or antisocial behavior that might be a consequence of trading or acquisition of illegal chemical substances. These substances use or abuse lead to an increase in risky behavior (Galea, Nandi & Vlahov, 2004).
Charity they say begins at home, the predisposition for young people to take up the habits of alcohol and drug abuse can be increased multiple folds by the kinds of families they live in or come from. As it is often the case many of these children turn out to be alcohol and drug abusers themselves as this is the kind of life they have been exposed to (Clinton, Clark & Straub, 2010). It often proves to be the case because this is the kind of lifestyle they have been exposed to. Parental use or abuse of alcohol is a significant indicator of future use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Studies on family incidence of alcohol have shown that alcoholics in a very significant number are likely to come from families where a sibling and or a parent displayed alcohol abuse (Cotton, 1979). In addition, parental attitudes to alcohol have shown links to adolescent’s use of alcohol. Stable families often produce children who are unlikely to be alcohol abusers. The divorce rate in the United States has gone up in the last 35years; the effect of this is that most families break up before the kids become adults. The strain that this puts on the divorced party has been known to cause negative alcohol behavior. A study carried out showed that the children from recently broken homes exhibited a higher tendency to consume alcohol in larger quantities and more frequently than children from stable homes. It might not be unconnected with the huge amount of stress resulting from the breakup of their families. As a result, the children will turn to alcohol as a stress reliever and with little or no supervision can go into binge drinking and go downhill from there (Jeynes, 2001).
While families will always play a massive role in how children turn out to be as well as the decisions and choices they ultimately make, peer pressure and the relationships that exist outside of the family play an important role in the likelihood of children choosing to abuse drugs and alcohol. As children grow into adolescents their friends assume positions of greater influence in their lives and there is consistent literature evidence that having friends that use or abuse alcohol and other drugs is often a powerful indicator of the possibility of exhibiting abuse of similar substances. Speaking specifically, marijuana consumption by adolescent peers significantly increased the tendency to abuse of the drug. It has been shown that friends are the most significant factor in initiating marijuana abuse among young people (Ramirez, Hinman et al, 2011). A fact is that it is enabled by coming from less a supportive family. The influence of peers increases very much in adolescent years it is safe to say that at certain periods of adolescence the sway that friends have over young people equals or exceeds that of the family. While this may be so, the influence of the family and friends in the life and decisions of adolescents are quite interrelated. Another equally telling indicator is the presence of a sibling or close relative that abuses drugs or is an alcoholic in such cases the chances of having alcohol or drug related problems are improved. The presence of a stable family without any drug or alcohol problem significantly reduces the possibility of having friends with problems with drugs or alcohol.
The relationship between the environment where adolescents grow up and their drug and alcohol use is important. For the most part children who come from middle class to low-income class families have a higher tendency to abuse drugs and or alcohol. This tendency increases appreciably if the person is from a racial minority. Children from middle-class families although exposed to alcohol and mind altering substances show a tendency to outgrow these sorts of behavior probably due to a lack of exposure in their immediate environment and assumption of new social roles due in no small part to the availability of options that their social status affords them. For the lower class families, these sorts of options are not common-place and most of them move from being dependents to providers in a few years. There is also the issue of social pressure or doing what is popular in one’s environment, or in other cases, what is available (Schensul & Burkholder, 2005).
In addition to all of the aforementioned, personal vulnerability is a very important factor. Personal vulnerability is a function of character, personality and the advantages and pressures of one’s social status. In the light of this, African American and Latino young people form the important demographic that constitutes the must drug-vulnerable class of adolescents because a greater percentage of young people from these racial groups come from low-income class families and do not have the social and family stability available to middle class families. The immediate environment of these income groups experience very little censure of alcohol and narcotics as these substances are, relatively speaking, readily available.
All in all, a person will ultimately be a product of their environment. The family rather obviously plays the largest part in the choices that an adolescent will make because it provides the template for the interaction of the young person with his/her environment. It determines, to some extent, the kind of social interactions available to the person and the amount of influence the society has eventually on the choices and decisions they make.