Youth Drug Abuse – Hong Kong

Youth problem is a wide-ranged and intertwined one among the social problems. With the development of information technology and economics, the teenagers are faced with more temptations than the older generations of their age, in other words, they have more choices for fun, like online games, Japanese cartoon and animation books and magazines, everyday updated fashionable accessories, hi-tech products and something can make the young generation feel like in the trend. However, out of some reasons, they are prone to be addicted with the novelties and then deviate from their normal life, such as the internet addiction, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and so on. Some of those youth problems are independent, but most of them are relevant and can elicit each other. Quite recent, I watched a documentary film named the Crimson Jade telling a story about a drug abuse schoolgirl, which arouse me to dig more about the young drug abuse group. Thus, in this paper, I especially choose the youth drug abuse problem as the topic.

Drug abuse is regarded as a serious teenager problem in Hong Kong. The age of the individuals who is the first time taking drug is younger than past: since 2007, the reported drug abuser under 21 increased by 34 percent within 3 years (Qing shao nian du pin wen ti zhuan ze xiao zu bao gao : zhai yao, 2008); In the year of 2007, almost all reported young drug abuser (99 percent) once took the mentally damaging drugs, only 2 percent of them took the traditional drugs (mainly the heroin), and there were 80.2 percent of young abuser took the ketamine for the most part (Qing shao nian du pin wen ti zhuan ze xiao zu bao gao : zhai yao, 2008).The developing traits of the Hong Kong teenagers drug abuse:1) the age of abusers tends to be younger as time goes on ; 2) increasing females become the drug abusers (Luan, 2010), the drug addictive female under 21 increased by 25 percent than the same duration in the first half year of 2008. 3% of youth are easily tend to be involved in drug dealing and/or smuggling.

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The definition of the youth drug abuse

According to the definition of deviant behavior, the drug abuse is one of forms of that. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the meaning of former first. After reviewing the textbook, it can be illustrated that the deviance involves the activities do not compliant with the social norms and are unreached the expectations of members from a specific society (Haralambos, 2008). Deviance in a sociological context describes actions or behaviors that violate cultural norms including formally-enacted rules (e.g., crime) as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and norms). It is the preview of sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and criminologists to study how these norms are created, how they change over time and how they are enforced (Wikipedia, 2010). It can be illustrated that the crime, delinquency, different kinds of addictions are the forms of the deviant behaviors, and the drug abuse is one of the addictions. In terms of the definition of youth drug abuse, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), no longer regarded “drug abuse” as a current medical diagnosis. Instead, DSM has adopted substance abuse (Wikipedia, 2010) as a blanket term to embrace drug abuse and other things. In my view, I think the youth drug abuse is young people who have their internal problems (mental and physical) and influenced by the external factors from their peers, families, neighhoods, and social “trend and culture”, are resulting in passive emotion, thereby tending to transfer or shirking the negative emotion temporarily through taking drugs without tackling the concrete problems. Additionally, according to Elise’s lecture, it was told that the alcohol abuse also belong to the drug abuse, for the alcohol is one of the chemicals can induce the mentally active abnormal syndrome. But in this paper, it mainly narrows down the topic to the usual understanding of the drugs like ketamine, heroin and marijuana etc.

The nature and origin of youth drug abuse

The micro level

1) Individual factor: partial reasons are personality and the developmental physical function of the young drug abuse. The former is instinctively from the perspective of the psychology, such as sensation or novelty seeking, inhibition and antisocial traits. The people who are inclined to be the drug abuser showed several personality deficits in common: 1) Behavioral problem. 2) Emotional obsession. 3) Low self-esteem. 4) Low resistance to obstacles.5) Swaying will(Yang, 2008).the latter is physiology, for adolescence is the transition from child to teenagers whose physical functions are developing under flux, thus some deficit of the body might be aroused during that time (Luan, 2010). Analyses of many studies have concluded that genes influence 40 to 50 percent of the variation in antisocial behaviors with a population, and 60 to 65 percent of the variation in aggressive antisociality (Rhee & Waldmam, 2002; Tackett, Krugeger, Iacono, & McGue, 2005). Owing to the research of Coleman, the certain genes in some individuals can render them more prone to be the drug abusers (2009).In addition, Laura deemed that the addiction is a disease in the brain that can control of it (2008).

The mezzo level

1) Family factors: the family integrity (whether the teenage lives with single parent or not), the communication pattern of the family members etc., especially the lacking of monitoring of a teenager’s interpersonal relationship and whereabouts, regarded as the most influential predictor of the drug use of that age (Chilcoat and Anthony, 1996; Williams and Hine, 2002).Further more, the parents’ acknowledgement and the cognition on the drugs can not match the developmental understanding of their children’s. There were 30 percent of interviewed parents did not know or could not be sure about whether their children had taken drugs or not (Ming Pao, 2009). It is the fact that parents are lacking the basic knowledge on updated drug-taking development in youth; therefore they are not that sensitive and alert to the slight symptoms or unusual behaviors of their children, and their care for the children might put in the inappropriate place.

2) Peer factors: except the parenting influence, the peer group is the sources of “affection, sympathy, understanding, moral guidance, a place for experimentation, a setting for achieving autonomy and independence from parents” (Papalia, 2009). Adolescence is the transition stage of an individual, from which an individual gradually starts to live more independent and dedicate more time with peers. Therefore, the peers or friends choosing for the youth play a pivotal role in accepting influence from the people they hang out with. Some negative peer pressure might breed from the interaction among the association, for instance, a negative role model in a clique takes drugs and also escape the punishment from law might encourage his or her friends to try the drug, for complicated combination of the fluke mind and peer pressure, the rest member of the clique probably might imitate the negative one. From 2008 to the first half year of 2010, according to statistics results from the Narcotics Division, Security Bureau of Hong Kong, there was over 60 percent respondent to choose the “Influenced by the peers, I want to fit in the peers group” as the initial reason why they take the drugs for straight years(ND, 2010). Additionally, young people are inclined to those whose are similar to themselves in school achievement, adjustment, and prosocial or antisocial tendencies (Collins et al., 2000; B. B. Brown et al., 1993).

3) School and community risk factors: Friedman took the view that the teenagers who had poor academic performance and/or behavioral problems are prone to substance abuse at a high risk (Friedman, Bransfield, Kreisher, 1994). A strict disciplinary school can possibly restrict teenagers from the potential influence of the other factors. At school teachers evaluate students basically towards their academic performance instead of well-rounded perspective out limited human resources and effective and applicable methods. Students who have poor performance academically might be looked upon as the deviants and bad students at school.

In my point of view, the school the whereabouts those students who have poor academic performance are labeled as the bad ones. Because self-concepts of individuals are largely stemmed from the responses of others, and they will tend to indentify themselves with that certain label (Haralambos, 2008); some young people are just potentially deviant once labeled as the concrete deviant, which will possibly trigger them give off the potential tendency into reality as well as the behaviors are going to be reinforced. From the perspective of labeling theory, Becker thought that the deviant behaviors resulted from those who had power could define others and make them label sticker. Here it can be seen that the school is the party with power who seems can be the judge, meanwhile, the students are compelled to receive the inappropriate judgment, which is unfair and ill-considered. As for Lemert the other advocator of the theory, he deemed that there were the primary deviation and the secondary deviation that publically labeled. But the former effected very little to whom were labeled for the first time, which means, it is slightly possible to elicit the being first labeled ones to do something deviant. Only the latter was the determinant cause for the concrete deviant to happen. If some students with poor academic performance receive the negatively labeling comments (they can be regarded as the negative punishment) again and again, there is no doubt that the self-identities are questioned and the potential deviant tendency will be possibly triggered.

In terms of community, the living circumstance of teenagers is quite important. The accessibility to the drugs of the neighborhoods and the degree of awareness of forbidden drugs are the influential factors for the teenagers. I think the influences can be good or not, it can be imagined that if the young people with drug abusive tendency live in positively active neighborhoods, the possibility for them of transforming into the drug abuser is still quite low, therefore neighborhoods can play the vital roles as the positive reinforcement for the possible deviant behavior of the youth.

The macro level

1) Culture and social factors: from the perspective of Marxism, it is acknowledged that the economic foundation decides the superstructure. Hong Kong is a world class cosmopolitan city with rapid speed life tempo, no matter which aspect is in the first class of the world. Hong Kong people can have the most updated electronic products, the comic books, and the so-called leisure style like taking some drugs, which are pretty attractive for the young people to give it a try. The teenagers of that age are easy to do something deviant impulsively and over-esteemed to think they can control themselves, which lead them to deem that taking drugs is not a big deal. The misconception of leisure modes in these entertainment mass media is likely to have deteriorative effects on the moral conscience of the young people.

In addition, all kind forms of mass media like the TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, especially the barrier-free internet services create infinite accessibilities for the juveniles to the violence and pornography that are exactly one of the sources giving the chance to the youth to imitate the negative side of the humanity consciously or subconsciously, like instigating peers to try the drugs or even being the drug dealers. In the light of the exploratory study by Yung Lai fong, she concluded that “the adverse influence of the unhealthy representations on newspapers/movies/VCDs was great. The comic books/magazines on sex and violence, in particular, appeared to have the most damaging effects on the healthy development of young people (Yung, L, Edith, 1998).” There is no doubt that the mass media does have the far-reaching and perpetuating impacts on the development of the young people intellectually and morally, and on their attitudes and perspectives towards self and others as well.

In conclusion, the three levels analysis for the origin and nature of the youth drug abuse are reciprocal to each other, one factor can not bring about the consequence of youth drug abuse recursively. The factors of different levels are considered as the social institutions, and they interact and have mutual impact to each other, in the specific condition, can turn the drug abusive tendency into reality.

Intervention from different levels

In my opinion, the social worker can be compared to the “agent” that is functioning as the bridge between the client and the other social institutions. Therefore, it is necessary to fully tap the functions of the “agent” to bridge well connections among those social institutions.

From the macro level, in campus and off campus, social workers can promote and popularize the essential knowledge on drugs and its damage as well as the negative influences to abusers and their families, peers and the society. Especially, the agency can bring the advantages of mass media into full play by cooperating with them, and its social workers can held some activities in order to disseminate the general ideas on disadvantages and the irreversible damages to the youth, and advocate the appropriate way to report some pop stars who take drugs and favorable in teenagers but not advocate it as a novel lifestyles.E.g:

In the mezzo and micro levels, social workers and the agency can filter down the target group, and then carry out the relevant intervention plans. When carrying out the intervention, social workers should be sensitive about the slight changes of the high risky youth, and the possible behavioral characteristics them are as follows: 1) Borrowing money from friends more often. 2) The abuser is looked dispirited and low-energy, sometimes having unusual excitements and meaninglessness behavior. 3) The abuser immediately turns to be depressive after behaving happily and talkatively (00).In terms of the specific approach, the social workers can adopt the CBT-MBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Motivational Therapy), according to previous experience, “CBT-MBT has been evaluated primarily in cases of young people abusing marijuana, 10 out of 12 randomized clinical trails have supported the effectiveness of the approach, with the effects persisting for as long as 30 months after treatment” (Waldron, Turner,2008).The social workers can also refer to practical skills during a ten-session CBT: “1) refusing offers to use drugs; 2) expanding the young person’s networks; 3) avoiding high-risk drug use situations; 4) managing anger; 5) communicating with parents and peers; 6) dealing with depressed mood ;7) coping with craving (Scharffer, Chang, Henggeler, 2008).” In my point of view, among those skills, the social workers should carry them out logically and progressively according to different situations and the major inducement of taking drugs of clients. For example, given that the clients are easily prone to be influenced by peers and less decisive, he or she took drugs largely because his or her so-called friends did. In consideration of this, firstly, the social worker can concentrate on the teaching the skill of refusing offers to use drugs; secondly, it is crucial to find out the behind reasons through skillful counseling. Maybe the client feels lacking the support from family or can not be understood by others etc. which possibly contribute to different solutions and methods to deal with clients’ situation.

During the counseling process, finding the strength (Hepworth, 2009) of the client is especially important for social workers to make it a part of the intervention. It is the essential solution that encouraging the clients to believe in themselves in order to enhance the self-strength efficiency during the process. The social worker can assist the client to set short term goal and long run goal for the sake of strengthening the self-esteem of the client. When the goals are settled, the social can also put forward the monitoring plan including the weekly meeting and self-monitoring on the behalf of the client. In all, it is practical to evoke the positive sides of the clients like helping and taking care of others, the pursuit of life goal, the capacity of anti-stress and meet the challenges.

Parents are the key to the successful intervention. For the social worker, they can hold the workshop, panel discussion and keep in tough with parents. Because of lacking daily communication and interaction with the children, most young drug abusers’ parents did not realize the changes of their children. The social workers held the workshop in order to create more opportunities for enhancing the interaction between those parents and children via interactive games and role-playing of using the videotapes to model positive and negative parent-child interaction, discussion etc. (Scharffer, Henggeler,2008).

If the social worker finds the drug abuse /addiction case or is informed by the other parties, such as teachers, students and community members, it is necessary to make the referral in order to help the abuser efficiently and timely. After the rehabilitation, the case still requires to be followed in the long run, for there is usually existing the recrudesce of drug addiction in the following months.

Information inclination: The cognition conducts the behavior, in the aspect of diversified intervention methods, that is to say, what kind of the perspectives towards the matters decides the information inclination. Showing the mass media materials like videotapes and newspapers can provide vivid examples of the physical and mental disadvantages and damages to the clients.

Labeling theory:
Social learning theory:

Julian Rotter moved away from theories based on psychosis and behaviorism, and developed a learning theory. In Social Learning and Clinical Psychology (1954), Rotter suggests that the effect of behavior has an impact on the motivation of people to engage in that specific behavior. This social learning theory suggests that behavior is influenced by these environmental factors or stimulus, and not psychological factors alone.

Albert Bandura (1977) expanded on Rotter’s idea, as well as earlier work by Miller & Dollard (1941), and is related to social learning theories of Vygotsky and Lave. Social learning suggests a combination of environmental (social) and psychological factors influence behaviors. This theory incorporates aspects of behavioral and cognitive learning. Behavioral learning assumes that people’s environment (surroundings) cause people to behave in certain ways. Cognitive learning presumes that psychological factors are important for influencing how one behaves.

Push-pull Theory & Differential Association theory

Evidences/ supports of the youth substance abuser:

Peer influence is the major cause of youth drug abuse——–According to the survey in 2004, it reported that the commonest drug suppliers were the peers of the teenagers with 51.8 percent, and there were only 10.4 percent by drug dealers and 8.2 percent to 10.8 percent by parents, family members and relatives respectively.

When the young drug abusers encounter some problems or troubles they tend to seek for help from those who provided the drugs to them as their first choice rather than the parents, teachers and social workers. One interesting founding in the 2004 survey was that psychotropic substance abusers would rather to get help from their close friends first (26.8percent ) than seek help from parents first with 11.8 percent and seek help from social workers counted to 9.3 percent.

The reason for first try of drugs: Knowledge deficit, misconceptions of substance use, academic problems, family problems and poor relationship with parents and peers have also driven them to have their first try (The 2004 Survey of Drug Use among Students, 2005; Boys, Marsden, & Strang, 2001).

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