The Decline of Substance Use in Young Adulthood: Changes in Social Activities, Roles, and Beliefs

By Jerald G. Bachman; Patrick M. O'Malley et al. | Go to book overview

7
Friends' Use of Substances,
and Perceived Availability
of Illicit Drugs

“Birds of a feather flock together. ” Such truisms are not always true, but in the case of substance use the old saying is largely valid. Earlier research, summarized in chapter 2, showed consistently that drug-using youth and young adults are likely to have friends who use the same substances. We thus expected that respondents who engaged in various substance use behaviors, and especially those who did so fairly often, would report that relatively high proportions of their friends also engaged in such behaviors. That is exactly what we found, as is detailed in this chapter.

That individuals' self-reported substance use was correlated with their perceptions of friends' use is a relatively straightforward finding, but understanding just why those correlations occur is much less straightforward. The problem is not that we cannot think of reasons for the correlations; rather, the problem is that there are too many good reasons, as we noted in chapter 2 and discuss briefly here.

First, individuals with friends who use a particular substance are more likely to have the opportunity to use the substance themselves, because the friends may offer to share (whether cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs). In addition, the friends may actively encourage use both positively (“Try this, you'll love it”) and negatively (“Don't be so timid”—or words to that effect),

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