Peer victimization leads to depressive symptoms and substance use, finds study

Peer victimization leads to depressive symptoms and substance use, finds study

Children during late childhood and early adolescence are highly vulnerable to peer victimization. Research has suggested high prevalence of victimization among youth who have low social status, or with often-stigmatized characteristics, such as obesity and chronic health conditions. Boys are found to experience different types of peer victimization including physical aggression and verbal bullying as compared to girls.

In addition, researchers have highlighted the possibility of association between substance use and peer victimization. Youth who experience bullying in adolescence are more likely to indulge in substance use or abuse during adolescence that may continue into adulthood. On the similar lines, a recent study explored the association of peer victimization in early adolescence and the onset of substance use of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco during mid- to late adolescence.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics in May 2017, reported that the chain reaction starting from frequent episodes of victimization from companions and friends and leading to depression, may subsequently lead to higher incidence of substance use. The researchers tested the hypothesis by evaluating if negative experiences in the fifth grade were associated with greater chances of substance use in the tenth grade taking into consideration presence of depressive symptoms in the seventh grade.

The findings from three U.S. metropolitan areas revealed higher likelihood of engaging in marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use in tenth graders, who had experienced frequent episodes of peer victimization in fifth grade. The researchers found evidence linking the experience of fifth-grade peer victimization to the development of seventh-grade depressive symptoms as well. Furthermore, they explained the role of seventh-grade depressive symptoms in causing substance use in tenth-graders. The researchers also highlighted the role of other factors, including poor academic achievement, traumatic stress and absenteeism in contributing to the association between peer victimization and substance use. It was also observed that youth experiencing peer victimization (both as targets and perpetrators) were more at risk of developing substance use. In addition, stigmatized characteristics ranging from sexual minority orientation to psychosocial processes (such as school connectedness and social support) may affect these associations moderately.

Past studies provide further evidence

A previous study published in the journal Prevention Science in 2014 reported a significant association between type and frequency of victimization and increased prevalence of alcohol experimentation, moderate polysubstance use and frequent polysubstance use. The term “polysubstance use” is broadly described as consumption of more than one drug simultaneously, over a long period, or at different times. It may be for either recreational or therapeutic purposes.

The study also observed that the risk of substance use was higher for youth with frequent verbal and physical victimization experiences. It highlighted that emotional toll associated with high relational victimization affected behavioral health as compared to occasional episodes. Adolescents with substance use problem were also found vulnerable to victimization. Among frequent poly-substance users (who abused multiple substances), 25.2 percent were likely to experience frequent verbal and physical victimization. While youth with moderate poly-substance use had around 36 percent likelihood of suffering verbal/relational victimization, 51.5 percent non-users had no risk of being victimized.

Dealing with mental health problems among youth

It is important for schools to address the factors affecting mental health of students while taking effective steps to discourage negative behaviors. Schools should come up with strict guidelines to curb bullying within campuses and provide counseling service to those affected. They should also educate students about possible hazards of such behaviors and encourage them to be friendly with their comrades. Youth who are already battling substance use problems should get prompt medical assistance. They may need to undergo detox to remove the toxins of the substance from their body and prepare it to respond to medication and other treatment modalities.

The California Detox Helpline is an effective information center about treatment of substance use problems. If you need information on state-of-the-art rehab centers in California, call our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or join our representatives over an online chat for more information. They can share details of the best detox centers in California equipped to devising customized treatment plans.