Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Refer to your syllabus for required components. Your topic is a summation of prevention science implementation that must include how it applies to neuroscience, high risk groups, special populations and the role of protective factors in prevention. One page per topic.

Use subheadings for each topic.

Prevention Science Implementation
Neuroscience is focusing on how substances change and react in the brain and body. The actual definition is “the scientific study of the nervous system”. This is important regarding implementing prevention approaches for substance abuse because you learn the ways in which substances affect the brain and body and how it affects each person a little differently. There is evidence to suggest that vulnerability to drug abuse can be predicted by the degree of positive reward derived from the initial drug experience. Drug abusers reported significantly greater positive feelings from their first experience. This is important because it suggests that individuals differ in their initial reaction to drugs of abuse.
There are also other studies that suggest vulnerability to substance abuse is heritable. These findings show that dopamine receptors in the nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex, play a critical role in drug reward. Genes can also affect how the body absorbs and eliminates drugs, either increasing or decreasing vulnerability to drug abuse. Neuroscience research also suggests that exposure to stress may be an important environmental factor that influences vulnerability to drug abuse. Vulnerability to drug abuse is also determined by the amount of exposure to novel environmental stimuli that occurs during development. This has led to the development of theoretical perspectives on behavior known as operant and respondent conditioning. Behavior is influence by its consequences such as reinforcement or punishment, but it is also influenced by prior environmental conditions. Substantial research has shown that drugs can function as punishing or reinforcing stimuli, influencing the likelihood of future drug seeking behavior. It is important to note that a cause of a case of drug abuse is that an individual is exposed to a drug that functions as a reinforcer.
Genetic findings are important for understanding the biological mechanisms of drug abuse. Mapping the genetic markers associated with vulnerability to drug abuse would provide an additional tool for identifying those most at risk at an early age. There are several theories of substance use that posit substance use occurs in high levels of life stress in conjunction with an absence of available, active coping responses. Research suggests that teaching coping strategies to children to prepare them for stressful life events or that the early identification and referral for support services for children who experience stress reduce drug abusing behaviors. (Drug abuse prevention pg. 429)
High Risk Groups
Research has shown that those most likely to abuse drugs are from 12 to 20 years of age and show signs of dysfunctional and antisocial behaviors. High risk youth not only have a significant number of risk factors associated with substance abuse but they also tend to have fewer protective factors. There is an increasing demand for effective drug abuse prevention programs especially for high risk youth. Prevention scientists have called for comprehensive drug abuse prevention programs that address multiple, interrelated problem behaviors. The goal is to identify high risk individuals and intervene to address the personal and social factors that place people at greater risk. The problem behaviors that are in high risk youth are drug use, aggression, depression, and suicidal behavior. Promoting change in each of these behaviors should be the goal of drug abuse prevention efforts with this group.
Special Populations
Research suggests that males and females may develop patterns of drug use at different rates and by different etiological pathways. Gender-specific approaches could be designed to place greater emphasis on the risk factors that appear to be more important for each gender group. Discussions of issues regarding drug use during pregnancy, sexual abuse victimization, menstruation, skills training in coping with stress may be more relevant to females than males Drug abuse prevention for females should also address males’ roles in the introduction to drugs since it has been suggested that female addicts are often initiated into drug use by male partners. For males, programs should place greater emphasis on changing pro-substance-use beliefs, building social competence and skills.
There is a strong awareness that new programs need to adhere to different cultures and substance abuse has impacted those cultures. For example, Latino youth are at no greater risk than any other youth but there is considerable evidence that substance use represents a significant problem for any Latino families. Latinos are much less likely to have access to mental health interventions. Within the African American community, substance use has had devastating impact. African-Americans are twice as likely to be in substance abuse treatment but they also have fewer treatment resources and are an underserved population. Common barriers to treatment include poverty and lack of health insurance. Each culture has specific needs that must be addressed to make treatment more effective. It is important that professionals are well grounded in the certain cultural values.

Role of Protective Factors

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