© Borgis - New Medicine 2/2004, s. 57-60
Istvan Vingender PhD
The family and drug use
College of Health Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
Aim. The aim of the study is to explain why young people become drug users.
Material and methods. Analytical epidemiological research has been conducted by Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary in time of one decade.
Results. Parental use of illegal drugs, the system of relationships in the family and parentless childhood influence the addiction most of all. Parenting styles of child rearing and housing conditions appeared to be important too.
Conclusion. The family background plays the most crucial role in drug addiction although there are also some more contributory factors.
Explanation why young people become drug users has not been given much attention recently. In the past, research into sociological, psychosocial, develop-mental, psychological, psychopathological and addiction factors, examined the question why young people start taking drugs, what social and personal circumstances contribute to drug use and abuse.
The intensity and range of research have been decreasing, partly due to the previous exploration of causative factors such as living conditions, social and personal issues in the development of drug use behaviour, and partly because of a general belief, although not clearly expressed, that most risk factors cannot be changed, at least over a short term, by means of simple interventions.
In one respect, the drug use behaviour develops in a highly intricate social system; in other respect, it constitutes an independent system based on multifactorial relationships which can only be altered with a painstaking and complex effort. Nevertheless, it is important to search for the causative factors of drug use since it is well known that the crisis of social values, dysfunctional families, malfunctioning school systems, certain cultural and anthropological features of the post-modern society, lack of motivation increasing among young people, lack of prospects, purpose, sense, and loneliness stemming from individualisation, constitute the general background elements of drug use behaviour. These circumstances cannot be changed over a short period of time, however, it is crucial to assess the factors responsible for drug use in young people. First of all, drug prevention should be specialized, and its efficiency can be increased with well identified background factors and recognised causes.
This is particularly important, since an opinion has been widely expressed that drug prevention prog-rammes for young people are not effective. A thorough assessment of causative factors will help select young people at a particular risk, and, subsequently, introduce an adequately specialized prevention programme.
Is it necessary to find out if a youngster from a family with alcohol-dependent parents, and hence at a high risk, requires a different type of primary preventive intervention than a youngster who cannot cope with his school failures, or another one who has been rejected by his peer group?
If we assume that the intervention should correct or compensate for missing or dysfunctional psychosocial conditions to decrease the incidence risk of maladaptive behaviours, the answer is simple: prevention should offer a wide variety of solutions to young people who take drugs because of different reasons. It is generally assumed that prevention includes a wider range of means than merely providing information or education.
The efficiency of the prevention programmes confined only to offering information, has greatly diminished with an increasingly widespread drug use and the introduction of public education on drug use and abuse.
The Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports Sciences, and the Department of Drug Addiction at the Faculty of Health Care, the Semmelweis University, Budapest, have been conducting analytical epidemiological research into drug use over a decade. The study has been focused on family environment of drug users, school per-formance, community relationships, adolescent lifestyles, their consumer patterns and recreational habits, their system of values with respect to drug use, and other subcultural factors.
Our research has shown that the family background plays the most crucial role among all the remaining contributory factors; the structural and functional aspects of the family exert their potent and direct influence on drug use habits among young people. Other environmental factors such as school, community, life strategies and systems of values also play a significant role. However, the family is an institution with the primary role, not only in many aspects of human life, but in drug dependence as well; it does so in both exposing to and protecting from drug-taking behaviour.
The goal of the present study is to establish which family patterns and specific factors contribute to the increased drug use among young people and, with relevant data available, to make an attempt to assess the present condition of Hungarian families in this respect.
There are two groups of family predictors: specific predictors presenting certain elements or patterns of drug use behaviour in their factual manifestations. These factors exert their influence on drug use habits of young people by setting certain patterns, and also through direct socialisation of children. Non-specific predictors constitute the other group: they do not involve drugs themselves but influence drug use, at least in an indirect way, via intermediate factors. Psychopathological and sociological studies have shown that further predictors may be identified as elements of both predictor groups.
1. Specific predictors
– Parental use of legal drugs
– Parental use of illegal drugs
– Drug use by brothers/sisters or other relatives
– The use of medicines by family members
2. Non-specific predictors:
– The structure and internal network of the family
– Parents´ supportive participation in the child´s life
– Parenting styles of child rearing
– The family´s mobility, migration and moving
– Housing conditions
– The child´s ´escape´ response
PARENTAL USE OF LEGAL DRUGS
The most significant predictor in the aetiology of drug use behaviour among young people includes one of the family background factors, i.e., a legal drug use pattern displayed by parents. The family drug use patterns can be classified as those found in direct socialization of children, and those offered indirectly.
In view of the present health culture of the Hungarian society, especially its cognitive, value and behavioural dimensions, the presumption is that values and behaviour patterns in drug use represent mainly an indirect mode of transmission, similarly to that observed in the general processes occurring in health culture.
Our hypothesis may be complete if we assume that internalization of drug use patterns is not only indirect, but also dysfunctional; it provides and imposes drug use patterns forming the main direction of the socialization process, it but does not create positive and protective values and models. This is especially important with respect to drug use, which, over the last few years has been an increasingly rapid process.
The number of alcohol-dependent users has been rising significantly (according to the Jellinek formula); there are approximately one million alcohol-dependent individuals in Hungary (10% of the total population in this country). However, the number of drug users has been increasing even more dramatically.
Over the last decade, the number of illegal substance users has increased tenfold (according to official statistical figures). This shows that social groups, lifestyles, living conditions have been influenced by drug use, and have become the areas of socialization, thus resulting in the expansion of the drug scene which has been gaining an increasingly wider space in the society. It also means that the encounter with the drug use phenomenon has been more frequent. It has become evident that nowadays drug use is no longer the periphery of the social life.
It is the parents who are the first to offer their children clear patterns of drinking; this therefore, young people are involved in excessive alcohol consumption. This also means that alcohol problems are being reproduced in the contemporary society. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact that parental alcohol problems accustom their children not only to uncontrollable drinking, but also to using illegal substances. It is due to the fact that alcohol consumption does not only mean using a psychoactive substance or dealing with its special effects, but it also involves a specific response to social challenges and demands; it is a dysfunction of the social integration, a form of maladaptive behaviour. Young people establish social integration using methods and psychoactive substances typical of their subculture; alcohol consumption and illegal drug use are different forms of the same integration process. Consequently, adult alcohol dependence also exerts its influence upon the use of illegal drugs by the young population. On the other hand, the family socialization shows direct drug use patterns in parents; members of the first drug generation become adults and have their own children. They may convey drug use patterns to their offspring, not only in an indirect way but directly as well.
The first epidemiological research into the adult drug use in Hungary has shown that approximately 2% of the adult population have had experience with illegal substances at some time, and 20% of those people have been using them in their lifetime.
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