Literature Review Draft Assignment

  1. Problem/Need: Prevalence of Drug Abuse by Teens and Young Adults in the New York Area

Drug abuse among adolescents and young adults continue to present a significant public health challenge in New York and the U.S. According to the report by the “New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) 2010” estimates, about 12% of N.Y. State residents aged 12 years and above experience addiction or substance abuse disorder annually. Approximately over 1.9 million residents of New York, comprising of 1.77 million adults and about 156,000 teenagers ages 12 to 17 years, reported substance abuse problems in 2010 alone (New York Department of Health (2017). This literature review explores the prevalence of drug abuse by teens and young adults in New York as the problem and factors contributing to the trend.

Research by Gray & Squeglia (2018) reports that substance abuse mostly starts during the adolescent stage. Alcohol is the most widely abused drug among young people, with about 64% of the youths aged 18 years and over endorsing lifetime alcohol use, while marijuana and cigarette constituting 45% and 31%, respectively (Gray & Squeglia 2018). The overall rates of substance abuse among adolescents and young adults have remained comparatively unchanging over the past several decades, with just a few noteworthy exceptions. The use of cigarette teens and young adults has declined significantly over the several years, while electronic or e-cigarette use has continued to gain more popularity among adolescents and youths in recent years (Johnston, O’Malley, Miech, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2017).

Study shows that adolescents and young adults’ use of illicit drug reached extraordinarily high levels in the New York and across the U.S. and international standards in the late 20th century (Johnston et al. 2017).  The majority of the youths (55%) by 1975 had experienced substance abuse by the time they were leaving high school. The figure rose to 66% in the 1980s and gradually declined to the low point (41%) by 1992, termed the “relapse phase” in the substance abuse epidemic. The values rose considerably to 55% by 1999, then declined to 47% in 2009, and has played around between 49% and 50% since 2011, across the U.S. but relatively high in states such as New York (Welty, Harrison, Abram, Olson, Aaby, & McCoy, 2019).


            Law enforcement agencies describe New York City as the United States’ largest market for illegal drugs. In 2015, about 96,883 New York residents joined substance dependency treatment/rehabilitation every day. In 2014 authorities reported over 1,200 automobile accidents caused by illicit drugs and alcohol abuse. Between 2012 and 2013, 462,000 (2.8%) of young people age 12 years and above were dependent on illegal drugs, and only 12.8 % of the group received treatment. Cocaine, marijuana and heroin continues to control the drug scene. According to the report, about 14,770 of New Yorkers entered cocaine abuse treatment programs, 79,295 for heroine, 18,405 for opiate use, and 42,289 for marijuana according to the beginning of 2014 2014 N-SSATS report (N-SSATS 2014). The numbers are still significantly high and should worry both government agencies, researchers, and scholars.

  • Theory Survey and Comparison
  • Factors contributing to the prevalence of substance abuse

Several factors are associated with the prevalence of substance abuse among teens and young adults. Such include genetic, environmental, anxiety, and depression. Study shows that genetic factors cause about 40%-60% of the susceptibility to substance abuse or drug addiction, and environmental factors offer the balance. Approximately 30% of individuals become addicts once exposed to drugs (Waqar, Badar, & Shoeb, 2014). Genetic predisposition, such as the presence of “Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP)” in the “Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH)” gene, encoding an “endocannabinoid-inactivating” enzyme is found to influence an individual’s susceptibility to drug addiction (Waqar, Badar, & Shoeb, 2014). Several studies have revealed that such genetic predispositions alongside psychological and social factors contribute significantly to drug addiction (Waqar, Badar, & Shoeb, 2014). Individuals with genetic vulnerability to substance/drug dependence exhibit a more significant effect of “psycho-active materials” on them when exposed to drugs than people without genetic susceptibility to drug dependence. Substance abuse alters gene expression (Olvera et al. 2011). Variations in genes may cause drug introduction and stress, leading to helplessness and addition.

An individual’s environment can also contribute to the propensity towards substance abuse and dependence. Clinical psychologists and psychoanalysts emphasize a person’s physiognomies of substance abuse, contemplating factors such as distress, depression, anxiety, and their impact on the development and sustenance of drug abuse and addiction (Wall, Luczak, & Hiller-Sturmhöfel, 2016). For instance, spiraling distress/depression explains how the first “self-regulation” failure is likely to translate to emotional distress, setting up a cycle of recurrent failures to “self-regulate” and consequently leading to addiction. It is implicit that emotion-altering effects of substances are the primary reason for their application (Sallis, Owen, & Fisher, 2015). The majority of young people resort to drugs to compensate for undesired emotional conditions such as depression and anxiety fashioned by different events and environments, including economic hardships, social and cultural trends. Other environmental factors include cultural influence such as societal opinions concerning alcohol use (Boyd, Fast, Hobbins, McNeil & Small, 2017), shaped by religious beliefs and traditions.

  1. Comparison of the Theories and Conclusion

Substance/drug addiction in humans is a change over time, and begins from occasional drug-use to a more compulsive state, and eventually one loses control over the quantity of drug consumed. A significant proportion of drug addiction is caused by genetic factors (40-60%), with environmental factors such as depression and distress acting as a balancing effect, with about 30% of people are more likely to become permanent drug users once exposed. There is a need for adequate funding in the areas such as awareness creation meant to provide children with the necessary skills to succeed in the future. Educating teens and young adults on the adverse effects of substance abuse can help reduce addiction rates.


Boyd, J., Fast, D., Hobbins, M., McNeil, R., & Small, W. (2017). Social-structural factors influencing injection cessation periods among marginalized youth who inject drugs in Vancouver, Canada: an ethno-epidemiological study. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(1), 1-11. DOI: 10.1186/s12954-017-0159-9

Gray, K. M., & Squeglia, L. M. (2018). Research review: what have we learned about adolescent substance use? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry59(6), 618-627. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12783

Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2017). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-2016: Overview, key findings on adolescent drug use.

New York Department of Health (2017). Priority Area: Mental Health/Substance Abuse – Substance Abuse.

N-SSATS. (2014 November). Recovery Services Provided by Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities in the United States. National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services

Olvera, R. L., Bearden, C. E., Velligan, D. I., Almasy, L., Carless, M. A., Curran, J. E., … & Glahn, D. C. (2011). Common genetic influences on depression, alcohol, and substance use disorders in Mexican‐American families. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 156(5), 561-568.  doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.31196

Sallis, J. F., Owen, N., & Fisher, E. (2015). Ecological models of health behavior. Health behavior: Theory, research, and practice, 5(43-64).

Wall, T. L., Luczak, S. E., & Hiller-Sturmhöfel, S. (2016). Biology, genetics, and environment: underlying factors influencing alcohol metabolism. Alcohol research: current reviews, 38(1), 59.

Waqar, M., Badar, U., & Shoeb, E. (2014). Genetic and environmental dynamics to drug addiction. International Journal of Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders, 1(2), 53-62. DOI: 10.4038/ijptsud.v1i2.7698

Welty, L. J., Harrison, A. J., Abram, K. M., Olson, N. D., Aaby, D. A., & McCoy, K. P. (2019). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (, 2017). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 17-5044, NSDUH Series H-52). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved. College of Health Sciences, 106(5), 128.