History of Family Arrests Prove To Push Some Teens Toward Drug Abuse

Teens are more likely to use pot or drink heavily into adulthood if their friends or family members have been involved in crime, according a new study from The University of Texas, Dallas.

Researchers at UT Dallas studied a sample of 1,354 young people, mostly males between the ages of 14 and 17, directly linked to criminal offenses including violent crimes, property crimes, weapons and sex crimes. They also examined the participants’ demographics, education, neighborhood, peer behavior, impulse control and family arrest histories. Researchers then followed up with the participants over the next seven years.

What they found was a clear indication that family behaviors clearly influenced teenage drug abuse and drinking patterns.

A Look at the Numbers

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Researchers found that family arrest histories and delinquent peers seemed to be the leading factors contributing to long-term substance abuse.
Teens whose friends or family members had been arrested were more likely to abuse alcohol or marijuana over the course of seven years. Impulse control also played a significant role in contributing to substance abuse.

The findings highlight the need for drug and alcohol abuse prevention programs that teach young people impulse control and how to resist peer pressure, said study co-author Dr. Alex Piquero, Professor of Criminology in the UT’s School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

"Policywise, efforts at improving self-control and increasing resistance to peer antisocial behavior appear to be critical in preventing heavy substance use," Piquero said.

Additional Influencing Factors

Factors like the teens’ IQ’s, academic attitude and learning problems did not play as big a role as the factors above in contributing to substance abuse, researchers found. In fact, potential learning issues are more likely to be a result of substance abuse than a cause.

"Existing cross-sectional studies show that substance abusers exhibit poorer cognition," said co-author Dr. Francesca Filbey, associate professor at the Center for BrainHealth in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

"What this work presents is that, although neuropsychological factors don't appear to increase risk, decreased cognitive function is likely an effect, rather than a cause, of  substance use. This would suggest that changes in the brain occur following substance use."
Additional Reading: Weekend Drug Use Usually Turns into Weekday Use

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