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Transition from high school to college

Making the transition from high school to college is a stressful time for individuals. Changes are happening and occurring at a fast pace, causing some young adults to crack under pressure. The stress of everyday life, along with an additional pressure of getting into college, may lead young adults to turn to drugs. When students cannot handle the pressures of college they sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol. Since many label college as “one big party”, students do drugs and alcohol to have fun.

Drugs can make you feel wonderful or terrible. There are drugs that can be used to help heal the body and make you feel better. There are also many drugs that are abused that have no medical uses whatsoever. Not everyone who tries drugs has the same experience. Some users who use drugs abuse them and others do not. Some people experiment with drugs and stop, but others quickly go from being users to abusers without them realizing this is happening.

According to most American, regardless of age or education, everyone has their own attitudes and perceptions about the use of drugs. Their attitudes may be similar or may be different. However, with some individual achieving higher levels of education than others, the aim of this study is to examine attitudinal differences toward drugs among different level of education (high school students and college students). The question attempting to be answered in this research is: How does different level of education affect attitudes towards drugs?

Literature Review

High School Students

Marijuana use is widespread among adolescents and young adults. According to the 2001 Monitoring the Future survey, students from the eighth, tenth, and twelfth grades were asked about their marijuana use and why. Twenty percent of eighth graders said they had tried using marijuana at least once, and by tenth grade, 20 percent were steady users. Among twelfth graders, nearly 50 percent had tried marijuana or has at least once, and 20 percent were current users (Issari & Coombs, 1998). Many adolescents think that smoking marijuana is a cool thing to do. Adolescents start using marijuana for many reasons. They sometimes get peer pressured into trying it because they feel the need to “fit in.” Another reason is that they are simply “just curious” and want to see how it feels to be high. Peer groups, school and relationships with others all play a huge role in an adolescent’s life in one way or another.

A study conducted in Spain by Puente et al. (2008), surveyed 450 high school students from eight schools randomly selected schools located in two cities. The students surveyed were 53 percent female and 47 percent male ranging from ages 14 to 18. The study evaluated the “possible moderating role of sensation seeking in the relationship between attitudes toward consumption and frequency of use of both alcohol and ecstasy” (Puente et al, 2008). The results indicated that high school students had “positive attitudes toward consumption mediate the effects of sensation seeking on both alcohol and ecstasy consumption behavior, indicating that sensation seeking affects drug consumption through the development of positive attitudes toward consumption” (Puente et al, 2008).

College Students

Lewis and Mobley (2010) evaluated a set of attitudinal risk factors (peer, family/environment, self) that best describes those with a high probability of having a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). They conducted a sample of 78 students from a university in central North Carolina across two academic school years. Results suggest that “participants with a high probability of having a SUD would misperceive alcohol and marijuana based norms to a greater extent than those with a low probability of having a SUD” (Lewis & Mobley, 2010). Family social environment and perception of peer substance use may lead to personal use by shaping individual attitudes in a direction favorable toward substances (Lewis et al, 2010).

Simmons and Gaher (2004) studied relations between attitudes toward alcohol use and drug-free experience and alcohol consumption. The participants for their study were 231 undergraduate students at a small state university. Participants were assessed twice, which was separated by a 30 day interval. According to them, attitude toward alcohol use at Time 1 was associated with alcohol consumption at Time 2. “Students attitudes toward alcohol use was less associated with alcohol problems among participants with more positive attitudes toward drug-free experience” (Simmons et al, 2004). Also, attitude toward drug-free experience moderated the alcohol attitude-behavior relationship. This indicated that drug-free attitude acted as a protective factor, reducing the relationship between alcohol attitude and alcohol-related problems (Simmons et al, 2004).

Stelios Stylianou’s (2002) study sampled university students in the area of how perceptions of self-harm and perceptions of immorality shape attitudes toward the control of drug use. The attitudes and perceptions were measured for six drugs: alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and LSD. Results indicated that students perceive that only the daily use of heroin would be a serious crime. “Heroin use in lower frequencies, the use of cocaine and LSD in any frequency, and the use of marijuana once or more than once a day would be criminalized as non-serious crimes. Alcohol and cigarettes would not elicit formal social control. The only behavior that the participants would not discourage is the occasional use of alcohol” (Stylianou, 2002). The study showed that the attitudes of students defined these behaviors in a way that closely resembles their current legal status of drug use in the United States (Stylianou, 2002). “The only exception is the use of marijuana once a month or once a week, which should be legalized” (Stylianou, 2002).

A number of studies have been carried out to show if age and education provides some comparison of perceived seriousness. Halman found that younger people to have more permissive attitudes than older people (Halman, 1995, as cited in ). Regarding education, studies have shown a negative effect on seriousness perceptions. Rossi et al. (1984) reported that “more educated persons tended to rate offenses similar to average rating” (Rossi et al, 1984, as cited in ). “Based on these reports, young and more educated persons seem to have perceptions and attitudes that are comparable to the general population” (Stylianou, 2002).

Attitudes on Why College Students Drink

There are many different reasons why college students drink alcohol. “Although interventions may attempt to warn students of the dangers associated with binge drinking, students may view heavy drinking as normative among all college students” (Berkowitz, 2005, Borsari & Carey, 2003, as cited in Pedersen et al., 2007). “Some students believe that drinking alcohol is a way to achieve status” (Musgrave-Marquart, Bromley & Dalley, 1997). Some students even believe that their use of alcohol represents their rite of passage into adulthood and that it makes it easier for them to form new ties socially (Ward & Gryczynski, 2007). Evidence reports that some college women may drink heavily to fit in and to be more attractive to their male peers (Pedersen et al., 2007). Other students believe that “because of the social context of college, it influences and reinforces drinking behaviors (Wechsler et al., 2000, Carey, 1995, Carey, 1993, Gotham, Sher & Wood, 1997, Harford & Grant, 1987) and results from several studies show that college students drink for social reasons” (Carey, 1993, Cooper, 1994, Cooper, Russell & Windle, 1992, Cronin, 1997, as cited in Pedersen et al., 2007). In research completed by Wechsler et al. in 1994, it illustrates college binge drinking “to be indicative of a drinking style that is characterized by more frequent and heavier alcohol use, intoxication, and drinking to get drunk” (Wechsler et al., 1995). While some students drink for status (Musgrave et al., 1997), to fit in and be more attractive (Pedersen et al., 2007), social reasons (Carey 1993, Cooper, 1994, Cooper, Russel & Windle, 1992, Cronin, 1997), or just to get drunk (Wechsler et al., 1995), some student-athletes drink to deal with the sometimes intense stress of competing at the collegiate level (Stainback, 1997, Tricker, Cook & McGuire, 1989, as cited in Thombs, 2000).

College Student-Athletes

Student-athletes are under greater pressure than the average college student because they have to manage both their studies and sports. While students cannot handle the pressure of college, they sometimes turn to the use of drugs and alcohol. “Research shows that among college students, marijuana is the most commonly used drug after alcohol and the most commonly used illicit drug” (Page & Roland, 2004). “Alcohol was found to be the most widely used drug at 87.8%, with marijuana second at 15.4%. The three most frequent reasons given for using alcohol and marijuana were recreational/social, makes the athlete feel good, and to deal with stresses of college life. The primary reasons given for not using alcohol and marijuana included concerns about the effects on health, no desire to experience the effects, against beliefs, and fear that it would hurt athletic performance” (Evans, Weinberg & Jackson, 1992).

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