Conventionalunconventional Can Personality Predict Drug Use37

Researchers created a scale of "conventionality-unconvention-ality" in an attempt to categorize the personality differences between adolescent drug users and nonusers. The basic personality traits of young adolescents were identified prior to their use of any drugs. Based on these personality traits, the adolescents were put into one of two groups: unconventional and conventional. In contrast to the conventional students, the unconventional students showed greater concern for personal independence, a lack of interest in the goals of institutions such as school or church, and a jaundiced view of the larger society around them. Predictions were then made on who would use drugs (unconventional personality) and who would not (conventional personality).

Several years later, the (now) older adolescents were studied again, and the predictive accuracy proved extremely high. The unconventional personality emerged as a key factor in drug experimentation and use among older adolescents. The study indicated that drug use and unconventionality were directly linked: the more unconventional the youth, the greater the likelihood there was of drug experimentation. In addition, the study indicated that the more unconventional the adolescent, the greater the chance there was of having a more serious drug involvement.

that teens who use drugs on a regular basis tend to already have fundamental psychological and behavioral problems. For example, recent research shows that regular illicit drug users, when compared with their peers, performed poorly in high school before they started using these drugs. Overall, although regular use of meth may add to a teen's problems, this latter viewpoint suggests that meth use may be more of a symptom than a cause of psychological and behavior problems. Indeed, it is suggested that if meth were not available, a teen with these types of problems would find something else to take its place.16


Peer influence appears to be one of the strongest factors affecting a teen's decision to use meth and other drugs. In fact, researchers describe the influence of friends as "formidable" when referring to drug-taking decision-making processes. Surveys consistently show that if teens have friends who use drugs, they are more likely to use drugs themselves. Those who do not have friends who use drugs are less likely to use them. Many studies of teenagers report that there is no "forcible" peer pressure involved in the decision to take drugs.37

Research also finds that teens taking meth tend to move toward new circles of friends who also use drugs, simultaneously increasing peer acceptance, access to these types of drugs, and the influence of other methamphetamine-using friends. Researchers emphasize that teenagers, particularly older ones, tend to associate with one another on the basis of similarities in lifestyle, values, and behavior. Drug use or nonuse has been determined to be one of those similarities, further enforcing the bond between friends who use or do not use drugs. In this way, teens often "self-select" and choose their friends based upon whether or not they use drugs; this selection process may be the "single most powerful factor" related to drug use among adolescents.14, 16, 19, 34

In 2005, MTF survey results showed19, 34

* The vast majority of high school seniors (between 82 and 97 percent) do not approve of the regular use of any illicit drugs.

* A majority of 12th graders have friendship circles that do not condone the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana. Well over half (61 percent) believe that their friends would disapprove of their even trying marijuana.

* Paradoxically, 77 percent of 12th graders in 2005 said that their friends use an illicit drug. Researchers believe this means that teens are exposed to many illicit drugs in school.

* According to the 2006 Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) survey on teen attitudes about drugs, more than half (51 percent) of high school students say they attend a school where drugs are used, kept, or sold. These results are an improvement from the 2004 survey, where 62 percent of high school students attended a "drug-infected" school.38

* Teen risk of drug abuse is 60 percent greater among high school students who say drugs are in their schools.38


Research shows that parents influence a teen's decisionmaking process regarding drug use but fail to create or enforce family guidelines about drug use. In addition, a CASA survey revealed that "hands-on" parents who have established rules and expectations for their teens' behavior are more likely to have an "excellent" relationship with their adolescent than "hands-off" parents, and that these involved parents are more likely to live with a teen at less risk of using drugs.39 For example, parents who establish curfews, expect their teens to respect these curfews, and enforce consequences if curfews are not respected are considered to be "hands-on" parents. As a result, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, co-supported by Partnership for a Drug Free America, is aimed more at parents than adolescents, and invites parents to supervise and guide their teen rather than avoid the subject of drug use.14, 39

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