Given the serious consequences of substance abuse among young people, researchers have made considerable efforts to understand what factors make young people more or less likely to use drugs and alcohol.
Though there are some alarming statistics about alcohol and drug use among young people, there is also some good news. Currently, research indicates that boys like David — who have a caring adult in their lives, do well in school, and participate in afterschool activities — are unlikely to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Other protective factors include a sense of belonging at school and at home, a religious or spiritual connectedness, and being optimistic about the future. Researchers have also found that facing certain challenges — such as doing poorly in school or being exposed to family conflict — increase the likelihood that boys will abuse substances.
Research into what works to build boys’ strengths and reduce the challenges they face is still growing. Although the results are promising, there is a need to build on prior research to continue to pinpoint what strengths make some boys more likely to succeed and what risks or challenges increase the likelihood that they will struggle.