Many studies stress that the first experience with drugs usually occurs during adolescence (e.g., Chein, 1965; Green, 1985; Kandel, 1980; Van Dijk, 1980; Yavetz & Shoval, 1980). The high incidence of the use of hashish and marijuana by adolescents has led to a considerable amount of scientific literature on the subject. In this context, Jessor and Jessor (1977) claim that the phenomenon of the use of hashish and marijuana by adolescents should be examined against the background of psychological processes which typify adolescence.
The term "adolescence" is intended to represent a stage in the development of the individual. The modern connotation of this term is relatively new. In primitive societies the move from childhood to adolescence was short. In fact, there are nonindutrialized places in which the term does not exist at all (Proeferock, 1981). The term, as we know it, was first suggested in 1762 by Rousseau (1979) to represent an experience of second birth. A number of modern theoreticians (e.g., A. Freud, 1968) emphasize emotional aspects of this developmental stage and assume a psychological imbalance which ends in adolescence when intellectual defense mechanisms emerge.
Erikson (1963) postulates that adolescence is characterized by the challenge of identity formation. He does not stress the importance of any specific emotion. According to Victor, Grossman, and Eisenman (1973), this challenge for middle-class youth who have no history of pathology and who do not use drugs is associated with curiosity, a tendency toward risk-taking, and a search for new experiences.
Drug Use in Adolescence
Openess to new experiences. During specific stages of life, those who function well feel the need to expose themselves to an unsafe environment and new and exciting experiences, unrelated to the gratification of other needs (Berlyne, 1960; White, 1959). This need involves, striving for self-actualization (Coleman, Butcher, & Carson, 1980), and it is located at the top of the needs pyramid (Maslow, 1962).
Curiosity is accepted as the most common motive for embarking on drug use (Green, 1985; Mizner, Barter, & Werme, 1970; Ormian, 1975). Green's (1985) research on the use of hashish and marijuana among adolescents in Israel reports that curiosity plays a central role in their willingness to smoke hashish. Some of his subjects mentioned that they wanted to find out how it feels to be in a situation in which they lack inhibitions, and in this way get to know themselves better. Zuckerman (1971) also found that users perceived curiosity as a motive for their initiation into drug use. Hummu (1978) reported that transitory and one-time users mentioned curiosity as the primary motive for drug use.
Existential vacuum. Frankl (1955) maintains that the issue of meaning in life emerges in adolescence. He reports on findings which show that adolescents suffer from an existential vacuum more than do adults. Using this approach, Greaves (1974) studied willingness of adolescents from middle-class backgrounds to use drugs. He reported that the use of hallucinatory drugs is perceived as auto-medication for existential problems, and that this tendency combined with group pressure and availability of a drug increases the probability of smoking hashish among adolescents.
Group pressure. Most theories on the use of "soft drugs" (e.g., Becker, 1980) assume peer group influence on this behavior. The availability of the drug is a necessary but insufficient precondition for willingness to use hashish, and thus is an inseparable part of the environmental and social influence (Barr, 1984; Smart, 1980). The theories which focus on social influences in willingness to use drugs assume that the need to belong to a group is most important at the age of adolescence. This need explains the extent of conformity to the modes adopted by the peer group (e.g., Edwards & Brauburger, 1973; Floyd & South, 1972). …