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Psychology and Health Issues Program Review

Psychologyand Health Issues Program Review

Psychologyand Health Issues Program Review

Psychologyis one of the disciplines of science that are gaining significance inthe modern society given the fact it addresses health issues arisingfrom dysfunction of human mental processes. The study of humanpsychology establishes the link between human behavior and mentalfunctions which helps in the formulation of educational programs thatcan address the troubling health issues, such as substance abuse.Although the psychology education programs that focus on the issue ofsubstance abuse differ with institutions, they contain the basicinformation pertaining to the cause of the behavior, how to controlit, and the possible treatment options. For example, an educationprogram designed by (Vermont Department of Health, 2014) providesuseful information about the abuse of different types of drugs(including alcohol and opioid) and ways of addressing theiraddiction. The present study will review the education program onsubstance abuse with a focus on characteristics of the affectedindividuals, risk factors, factors impacting substance abuse,treatment options, health promotion strategies, and importantlifestyle changes.

Substanceabuse among adolescents

Currently,substance abuse is an issue of health concern in all parts of theworld and all stages of human development. However, adolescents areat a high risk of abusing substances because they are more likely toexperiment with drugs than other age groups. One study shows thatexperimentation with licit drugs (including tobacco, alcohol, andprescription drugs) and illicit drugs (such as marijuana and otherhallucinogens) begins during adolescence, especially at the age of12-18 years (Howlett, Williams, Subramaniam, 2012). This age grouprepresents the high school students who are in the process ofestablishing their own identity and preparing for early adulthood. Asimilar study identified that adolescents with externalizingbehaviors are at a higher risk of abusing substances than the generalpopulation (Feldstein &amp Miller, 2006). Some of the most commonexternalizing disorders include the attention deficit hyperactivity,conduct disorder, and opposition defiant disorder. This implies thatadolescents are exposed to other risk factors other than thedevelopmental stage that is characterized by an urge to try things.

Riskfactors for substance abuse

Controllablerisk factors

Peopleof any sex, age, or economic status can be addicted to drugs.However, there are four controllable factors that increase the riskof substance abuse and addiction among adolescents. First, peerpressure is among the leading causes of the onset of drug use andabuse (Mayo Clinic, 2011). This is because adolescent often formsmall groups of social networking, within which they explore values,behaviors and identities. This risk factor can be easily controlledby educating adolescents on the importance of avoiding peerrelationships with people who abuse substance and guiding them in theestablishment of healthy relationships.

Secondly,having other psychological problems (such as depression andpost-traumatic stress disorder) increases the risk of becomingdependent on substances (Mayo Clinic, 2011). This is a commonoccurrence among adolescent who have been victimized in the past.This risk can be controlled by avoiding issues that cause stress ordepression. In addition, psychotherapeutic care for depressedadolescents can reduce the risk of abusing substances.

Third,poor family involvement and parental attachment increase the risk ofsubstance use and addiction among adolescents. Low parentalmonitoring has been associated with an increase in the risk ofengaging in substance abuse among adolescents (SAMHSA, 2014). Thistrend can be regulated through education programs that target boththe parents and adolescents in order to enhance their attachment andparents’ responsibility.

Riskfactors that cannot be controlled

Althoughmost of the risk factors for substance abuse are controllable, thereare three factors that are difficult to control. First, geneticpredisposition to substance abuse among adolescents surpasses theeffect of environmental factors. Study shows that substance abuse ismore common in certain families than in others (Mayo Clinic, 2011).Secondly, being born a male has been shown to increase the risk ofengaging in substance abuse. This means that male subjects are at ahigher risk of abusing substances in all age groups than their femalecounterparts. Third, age onset is uncontrollable risk factors forsubstance abuse. According to SAMHSA (2014) drugs and alcohol abusebegins in mid or late adolescence. This means that all human beingsare subjected to the risk of abusing drugs at some point (duringadolescence) in life.

Developmental,gender, and Socio-cultural factors

Goingthrough the adolescent stage is a developmental exposure to the riskof substance abuse. Based on Erickson’s eight stages ofdevelopment, adolescents undergo the type of crisis referred to asidentity versus confusion between eh age of 12 years and 19 years ofage (Ramkumar, 2012). Identity in this case refers to the ability ofan individual to exercise choice. At this stage adolescents can makewrong decisions (such as engagement in substance abuse) and correctchoices that affect the rest of their developmental stages.

Theavailable empirical studies show that there is a significant genderdifference in substance abuse across all age groups and in all typesof substance abuse. According to the NHSDA (2004) men are more likelyto use and abuse substances than female. This research also showedthat 12.2 % male abuse both hard drugs and alcohol compared to 6.2 %female of the same age (12 years and above) group. About 8.5 male and4.1 female subjects abuse alcohol only, and 1.9 male and 1.3 femaleabuse illicit drugs (NHSDA, 2004). This shows that gender differenceis a significant factor that contributes towards the abuse of alltypes of substances.

Socio-culturalbeliefs determine individuals’ behavior and approach towardssubstance abuse. This is because culture plays a significant role inshaping people’s expectations about the potential impacts thatdrugs will have in their lives (Abbott &amp Chase, 2008). Similarly,social groups that people select to join have the capacity to shapetheir perception about substance abuse. This implies thatsocio-cultural factors that are tolerant to substance abuse increasethe risk of adolescents’ engagement in substance use and addiction.However, social groups and cultural practices that have zerotolerance for substance abuse are protective and reduce the risk ofsubstance abuse among adolescents.


Treatmentoptions for substance abuse are broadly classified into two groups,namely psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. There are three types ofpsychotherapeutic approaches that have been shown to be effective inthe treatment of substance abuse among adolescents. First, cognitivebehavioral therapy is a treatment approach in which the therapistuses a manual to assist the addicted adolescent to acquire cognitiveskills (Howlett, Williams, Subramaniam, 2012). The therapist usingthis approach seeks to give the client behavioral strategies, such ascoping with craving and managing anger. Secondly, cognitivemanagement is a psychotherapeutic treatment approach that is achievedthrough operant conditioning. This involves reinforcement (includinggiving award) or punishment with the objective of reducing substanceabuse. Third, the family-based treatment is a manual-basedtherapeutic approach that involves the contribution of parents orlegal guardians to guide adolescents to stop abusing substances(Howlett, Williams, Subramaniam, 2012).

Theuse of medication as a therapeutic approach for treatment ofsubstance abuse addresses the effects of withdrawal andreestablishment of normal functioning of the brain. Medication isused to suppress symptoms that appear when drug addicts withdraw fromsubstance abuse. Currently, researchers have identified drugs thateffectively treat morphine, heroin, and nicotine as well as alcoholaddiction (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014). These drugs areused to restore the normal brain functioning that is destroyed by theuse of addictive substances and reduce craving for these substances.

Health-relatedbehaviors and health promotion strategies

Adoptinghealthy behavior means that individuals are able to take actions,establish correlations, as well as the consequences of their actions(Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Annual Report, 2009). Inthe case of substance abuse, adolescents should consider two types ofhealth behavior. First, preventive behavior can help adolescents totake actions (such as associating only with people who do not abusesubstances) that are intended to give them protection from harmcaused by substance abuse. Sick-role healthy behavior includesactions (such as receiving treatment given by medical providers) tobe taken by addicted adolescents in order to restore their healthstatus.

Healthpromotion strategies, on the other hand, refer to the approaches usedto give people the opportunity to take control and improve theirhealth (Better Health Channel, 2013). The common health promotionsstrategies include advocate, enable, and mediate, which were alldeveloped in the Ottawa Chapter for Health Promotion (Better HealthChannel, 2013). The society has the responsibility to advocate forgood health through health promotion actions, such as the creation ofa supportive environment. Providing medical and counseling servicesto adolescents can enable them to take control over their health. Inaddition, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies,media, and industry should provide support for the adolescents inorder to help them avoid substance abuse and rescue those who arealready addicted.


Inmost cases, substance abuse among adolescents results from theiradoption of unhealthy lifestyles. This means that successful adoptionof a healthy lifestyle can reverse substance abuse and prevent itsoccurrence among adolescents who have not started. Some of the keylifestyle changes that can help adolescents in avoiding substanceabuse include avoiding social relationships with substance abusers,avoiding places with addictive substances (such as bars), practicingstress reducing techniques (such as yoga and meditation), and joiningsocial support groups (Winchester Hospital, 2014). Although thesetypes of lifestyle changes are essential, undergoing treatment firstis more important for adolescents who are already addicted.


Thestudy of psychology has enhanced human understanding of therelationship between brain functioning and the risk of abusingsubstances. Adolescence is one of the developmental groups at therisk of substance abuse given the fact that adolescents likeexperimenting with substances than other age groups. Individuals inthis developmental stage are subjected to the risk of substance abuseby controllable factors (such as peer pressure) and uncontrollablefactors (including the genetic predisposition). In addition,adolescents can be exposed to the risk of substance abuse bydevelopmental, gender, or socio-cultural factors. Substance abuse canbe prevented or treated through medication, psychotherapy, or changeof lifestyle.


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