There are numerous risk factors for adolescents that could drive them to begin abusing alcohol or illegal substances. While it's understood that a teenager's peers may convince them to experiment, it is less clear how various social pressures can come together to create the conditions for drug use or drinking.
But, a new study conducted by the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, drew from psychiatric records and participant interviews and concluded that social anxiety – the fear of being rejected or judged by others – may be a key factor in substance abuse. Adolescents with a social interactive disorder are more likely to begin smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol an average of 2.2 years before those who are not afraid of being accepted by their peers.
The researchers also noted that the students observed exhibited signs of social fear before they began trying drugs or alcohol. This suggests that the act of abuse, in some cases, may be an attempt to reconcile these anxieties and fit in more with a particular group at school.
"This finding surprised us," Alexandra Wang, the study's principal author, said in an interview with Medscape Medical News. "It shows we need to start earlier with prevention of drug and alcohol use and treatment of social phobia [in children]."
If you or someone you love is beginning to abuse substances, it's never too late to take action to prevent further harm. Drug abuse interventions are more effective the earlier they are conducted, so it's vital that you reach out right away. To learn more, contact Intervention Services today and offer someone at need the help they deserve.