Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Nonsocial Reinforcement of the Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs: A Partial Test of Social Learning and Self-Control Theories

Academic journal article Journal of Drug Issues

Nonsocial Reinforcement of the Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs: A Partial Test of Social Learning and Self-Control Theories

Article excerpt

In this study, we examine the explanation of the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. We test the comparative utility of two theories of drug use (i.e., social learning theory and self-control theory) on the nonmedical use of prescription drug use. Our contribution to social learning theory is the use of an understudied part of the theory-nonsocial reinforcement. We expect the two theories to explain the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. Using data from the 2006 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF), we showed both theories have a link with the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. A consistent theme was that social learning theory had a consistent link with the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. However, self-control and nonsocial reinforcement have inconsistent links with the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. We discuss the policy implications of these findings.

INTRODUCTION

The nonmedical use of prescription drugs has gained significant attention over the last decade and is increasingly becoming a public health concern (National Institute of Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2001). This concern may stem in part from an increase in information suggesting that the nonmedical use of prescription drugs is on the rise. In fact, a 2002 report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicated that almost thirty million persons aged twelve and older had used prescription drugs nonmedically in their lifetime (NSDUH, 2004). The report indicated that the largest percentage of users were eighteen to twenty-five year olds. However, the report indicates that the behavior occurs among individuals that are much younger than this age group. Further, a 2007 report indicated that the nonmedical use of prescription drugs is reaching near record levels (www. monitoringthefuture.org). These reports suggest that the nonmedical use of prescription drugs is an important behavior that needs explanation.

Some research has been focused on the perceptions of the occurrence of the nonmedical use of prescription drugs (McCabe, West, Morales, Cranford, & Boyd, 2007; Teter, McCabe, LaGrange, Cranford, & Boyd, 2006), but less research has been focused on the reasons why this behavior occurs (Fischer & Rehm, 2007; McCabe, et al., 2007; Tetrault, et al., 2008). To be clear, McCabe et al. (2007) used a nationally representative sample of civilian non-institutionalized individuals who were eighteen or older to show that early onset was a predictor of prescription drug abuse. Tetrault et al. (2008) used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health to show that gender differences in the factors (i.e., age, number of times treated in emergency department in the past twelve months, polydrug use, and age of first drug use) had links with prescription drug abuse. While these studies provide insight into this problem, they do not provide a complete picture of why individuals perform this behavior. That is, these studies are devoid of theoretical explanations of the problem. Theoretical explanations are important because they allow researchers to organize their data in a rational way that can help establish policies to reduce the occurrence of the behavior.

In the present study, we examine the extent to which two theoretical perspectives - social learning theory and self-control theory - may be able to account for the nonmedical use of prescription drugs. We present nonsocial reinforcement as an understudied portion of social learning theory that is important to the initiation and continuation of drug use. Self-control theory helps researchers understand how self-restraint plays a role in the decision to perform a behavior. To our knowledge, no study of the nonmedical use of prescription drugs uses theory to provide such an explanation. Therefore, this study makes a modest contribution to the literature by providing an explanation of the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY

Social learning theory (Akers, 1985, 1998) is important to this study for several reasons. …

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