Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Socioeconomic Differences in Tranquillizer Use among Spanish Adolescents

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Socioeconomic Differences in Tranquillizer Use among Spanish Adolescents

Article excerpt

We investigated the socioeconomic determinants of tranquillizer use among Spanish teenagers. Highlighting these differences may help health professionals to be more effective in their diagnosis and corresponding prescriptions as well as supporting social agencies in designing better prevention strategies. We focused on Spanish society with data drawn from the Spanish Survey on Drug Use in School Populations (Spanish Drug Observatory, 2000, 2002, and 2004).

Keywords: tranquillizer use, youth, gender.

According to the Spanish Survey on Drug Use in School Populations (Spanish Drug Observatory, 2004) tranquillizers are the fourth most consumed addictive substance among teenagers, just behind alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and cannabis. Although modern tranquillizers are not fatal, even in excessive doses, the risks associated with the use of tranquillizers/sleeping pills include cognitive impairment, falls, other accidental injuries, medication interactions, secondary comorbidity effects, and dependency (Graham & Vidal-Zeballos, 1997).

The changing research context (tranquillizer consumption for health purposes or for recreational use), the lack of a standard measure approach (prevalence rates have been estimated based on intervals from one day, to one mondi, to one year), or me relatively low rate of reported use, induce researchers to pay attention to new dimensions of tranquillizer consumption. It is essential to study cultural and personal factors that condibute to tranqudlizer use in different groups of the population (Graham & Vidal-Zeballos, 1997).

Against this background, the focus of our research was adolescents as they represent the most sensitive population group in terms of tendencies, peer pressure, or, in general, social pressure. Thus, while these young people are developing their own identity, they are more vulnerable to die risks of experimenting with drugs. Our main goal was to interface individual tranquillizer use with the impact of individual characteristics and social environments whüe considering simultaneously different kinds of tranquillizer use (with and/or without medical prescription).

Tranquillizer consumption without medical prescription does not depend exclusively on personality factors. Based on results of a German sample, this risk factor is stronger in relation to certain social variables such as gender. Multiconsumption of tranquülizers with other drugs is more frequent among men than among women (Ulrich et al., 2007). The same argument applies for protector factors. Level of instruction and attending education centers are stronger protector factors for male students than for their female counterparts (ViUatoro et al., 2005).

Regarding tranquillizer use under medical prescription, women are more likely to be diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and are also more likely to be prescribed psychotherapeutic medication (Gabe, 1993). Even if women and men have me same symptoms, diagnosis and treatment can be different. For example, doctors tend to diagnose women as having more acute psychosomatic problems (Mostofsky & Barlow, 2000). Gender bias has resulted in unnecessary diagnosis and an excess of prescription medication among female patients (Clark, 1990).

A higher rate of medical use may be a function of more frequent exposure. Higher use of tranquillizers by females has been attributed to more frequent use of medical services and higher symptoms. These gender differences cannot be accounted for solely by biological factors, but also by sociocultural determinants such as medical advertisement, higher levels of medicalization, and gender roles, among otiiers (Graham & Vidal-Zeballos, 1997). In fact, there is no evidence mat women are biologically more vulnerable to mental Ulness than men (Doyal, 2000).

Socioscientific researchers identify the causes of gender differences as individual preferences diat arise from factors that include: differences in education and training; gender-role socialization; stereotypes; personal values and prejudices; contextual conditions; and a willingness to contort the generalized, assumed preferences of those in power (Trentham & Larwood, 1998). …

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