The Effect of Substance Use in an Adolescent’s Social Norms

Adolescent’s social norms include acceptable behaviors and conduct associated with the adolescent group. These may include values, perceptions, and customs that are used to guide the behavior of adolescents in the community. Social norms determine what adolescents should do and should not do based on their social and cultural context (Eisenberg, Toumbourou, Catalano, & Hemphill, 2014). Social norms can be used to reduce the use of alcohol and other drugs among adolescents by teaching adolescents to uphold healthy beliefs and avoid being influenced to engage in unhealthy behaviors that may negatively impact their health (Eisenberg et al.

, 2014).

However, substance use influences an adolescent’s thinking patterns and attitudes towards social norms. Unhealthy attitudes and beliefs influence adolescents to engage in negative behaviors that may be risky for their health and lives. This is because adolescents will make decisions based on what they perceive to be normal (Wang, Chen, & Lee, 2019). This has been indicated to encourage adolescents to use alcohol and other drugs affecting their quality of their lives.

Since social norms are meant to prevent adolescents in engaging in negative behaviors, substance use will bring a conflict between the accepted behavior supported by the community and the perceived normal behavior (Wang, Chen, & Lee, 2019).

Three Specific Paths for Substance Use Prevention

Substance use prevention is important as this helps to prevent substance abuse disorders and engagement in unhealthy behaviors among the adolescents. One path for substance use prevention involves determining what individual of group factors contribute to substance use among adolescents (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2014).

Some of the elements to be considered using this path include the probability of onset, severity, and dependence. Using this information, counselors can develop effective interventions to prevent substance use among the adolescents. This is important since different individuals or groups may be influenced by diverse factors that require counselors and healthcare professionals to determine the factors behind substance use among different adolescent groups (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2014). Another path for substance use prevention is collaboration with the adolescents. For an effective preventive process, healthcare professionals and policymakers can collaborate with adolescents in developing effective preventive programs.

This will provide adolescents with a platform where they can participate in the policy-making process leading to an informed decision-making process (Melemis, 2015). Collaboration can also be extended to include parents of adolescents who are able to monitor the implementation of prevention strategies to help adolescents in addressing some of the stressors and factors that influence them to engage in substance abuse. Empowering adolescents will also help adolescents manage their time and activities effectively preventing their engagement in unhealthy behaviors that may harm their health (Melemis, 2015). One of the contributing factors of adolescent’s negative behaviors is idleness and peer pressure. Empowering them will ensure that they are occupied with important activities limiting their time to participate in unhealthy behaviors. Empowerment can include training and educating adolescents on important life-skills that can help them to cope with life stressors and other factors that may influence them to engage in substance abuse (Melemis, 2015).

Prevention Strategies for Adolescent Substance Use

One prevention strategy for adolescent substance use is training adolescents on coping strategies to help them in addressing some of the stressors that may influence them to substance use (Moshki, Hassanzade, & Taymoori, 2014). These include peer pressure, stress, and changes in their physical and emotional aspects. These factors play a key role in influencing adolescents to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors and may lead to relapse if not effectively addressed especially to adolescents receiving treatment for substance use (Moshki, Hassanzade, & Taymoori, 2014).
Another strategy involves developing education programs in school where adolescents learn about the negative effects of substance use and what effective interventions can be implemented to prevent this outcome (Grow, Collins, Harrop, & Marlatt, 2015). These programs can also be implemented at the community level where the government provides important resources to the adolescents related to substance use. Drug use campaigns can also be used to create awareness in the community about the effects of substance use. The local government can participate in this process by providing the necessary resources that allow adolescents to access screening, treatment services, and help related to substance use (Grow et al., 2015).


Capuzzi, D., & Stauffer, M. D. (2014). Foundations of addictions counseling. Harlow: Pearson.

Eisenberg, M. E., Toumbourou, J. W., Catalano, R. F., & Hemphill, S. A. (2014). Social norms in the development of adolescent substance use: a longitudinal analysis of the International Youth Development Study. Journal of youth and adolescence, 43(9), 1486–1497. doi:10.1007/s10964-014-0111-1

Grow, J. C., Collins, S. E., Harrop, E. N., & Marlatt, G. A. (2015). Enactment of home practice following mindfulness-based relapse prevention and its association with substance-use outcomes. Addictive behaviors, 40, 16–20. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.07.030

Melemis, S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.

Moshki, M., Hassanzade, T., & Taymoori, P. (2014). Effect of Life Skills Training on Drug Abuse Preventive Behaviors among University Students. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 5(5), 577–583.

Wang, Y., Chen, M., Lee, J. H. (2019). Adolescents’ Social Norms across Family, Peer, and School Settings: Linking Social Norm Profiles to Adolescent Risky Health Behaviors. Journal of Youth and Adolescents, 48(5), 935-948. doi: 10.1007/s10964-019-00984-6. Epub 2019 Feb 4.

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