Social environment critical to end cycle of substance misuse

Posted on September 13th, 2017

Dr. Tim Dyck of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia believes that we can learn a lot about alcohol misuse by looking at a student’s social environment.

“They’re in a situation where they’re trying to establish social networks, they’re trying to form their own identity in relation to other people, they’re trying to find the group they fit into to be a part of,” says Dyck.

“In our culture, you generally get the message from the media or advertising by the alcohol industry, and a lot of other ways, that alcohol is critical for socialization.”

When it comes to the university atmosphere, and society as a whole, Krausz thinks that we aren’t very good at addressing the problem of substance use and addiction, or encouraging people to seek help for it.

Krausz says that the peer group is more critical for reinforcing specific behaviours than authority is, and says that some peer groups can create situations where students view their substance use as normal.

“If students are part of a group where, let’s say, at least heavy use is part of their norms or their behaviours, alcohol use may be a prerequisite to be a part of a specific social network, then the risk is higher to drink heavily or develop more risky consumption.”

Dyck also emphasizes the importance of the peer group, and says it is common for young people to overlook the extent to which they are using alcohol in ways that are bringing about problems or difficulties for them.

“There tends to be, on the part of post-secondary students, a misperception of the norm,” he says. “They tend to overestimate the degree to which their peers around them are using, the extent of that use, and the degree to which their peers approve of unrestrained and unregulated use.”

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