The Status of Self-Control and Its Relation to Drug Abuse-Related Behaviors among Iranian Male High School Students

Article excerpt

This study examined relationships between self-control status and substance abuse and substance abuse-related behaviors. Male high school students (N=183) completed a questionnaire assessing self-control, resistance self-efficacy, behavioral intention not to use drugs, and negative attitudes toward drug use, and substance abuse-related behaviors. Students with poor self-control reported that they had used drugs and smoked to a significant extent; they also experienced pressure from their peers to use drugs and smoke. Students with poor self-control reported being exposed to violence from parents and tended to avoid school. A significantly inverse relationship between poor self-control, intention, and attitudes towards drug abuse was found among these students. Adolescents with poor self-control are vulnerable to substance abuse and social self-control training skills are relevant in substance abuse prevention programs.

Keywords: self-control, low self-control, drug abuse, adolescent health.

Some young people seem to take risks and have less control of their own behavior. They act without considering the consequences, tend to take risks and adopt risky behavior and are known to suffer from poor self-control (Adalbjarnardottir & Rafnsson, 2002; Piquero & Tibbetts, 1996). Gottfredson and Hirschi's theory of crime (1990) asserts that people lacking self-control are predisposed toward imprudent behavior such as drug abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, and speeding when driving a vehicle. Furthermore, it has been postulated that people who have poor self-control tend to be impulsive, sensitive, physical (as opposed to mental) and they also possess criminal tendencies in addition to a tendency to similar behaviors (Rachlin, 1995).

Self-control has been defined as an intrapersonal conflict between reason and passion, between cognition and motivation and between an internal planner and an internal doer (Rachlin, 1995). Furthermore, self-control is often approached in terms of freeing a behavior regarding the effects of immediate consequences and forcing the behavior under the control of long-term contingencies that could protect one against imprudent behaviors (Logue, 1988). Following Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) general theory of crime, a great deal of research has examined the effects of poor self-control on offending and like behaviors. There are studies that report a significant link between poor self-control and offending and deviant behaviors (Arneklev, Grasmic, Tittle, & Bursik, 1993; Evans, Cullen, Burton, Dunaway, & Benson, 1997; Sellers, 1999; Wright & Cullen, 2000). Moreover, many studies emphasize that there is a significant relationship between poor self-control and substance abuse. Studies based on the self-control theory have revealed that poor self-control has direct and indirect effects on the driving of people who are drunk (Keane, Maxim, & Teevan, 1993; Piquero & Tibbetts, 1996), and on excessive alcohol consumption (Gibbes & Giever, 1995). A lack of self-control is known to be a risk factor or centrally related to substance abuse (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Jackson, Sher, & Wood, 2000). A lack of self-control among young men is believed to be a strong predictor of heavy drinking, tobacco use, other substance use, risk taking, a high level of novelty seeking and other imprudent behaviors (Griffen, Botvin, Epstein, Doyle, & Diaze, 2000; Longshore, Turner, & Stein, 1996; Sawadi, 1999). Moreover, drug abuse has been found at the highest level among individuals with poor self-control (Wills, Vaccaro, & McNamara, 1994). In this regard, Tarter et al. (2003) and Torchia (2004) reported that neurobehavioral disinhibition is a component that increases a person's propensity to suffer from the onset of a substance use disorder at an early age.

No study has been found in Iran regarding poor self-control traits and drug abuse. In relationship to the prevalence of adolescent drug abuse in Iran, the Cultural and Prevention Department of the Welfare Organization in Iran (1999) reported that 4% of prisoners have declared that they had begun abusing drugs before the age of 15, and 24. …