A strong relationship has been established between negative events and circumstances during childhood and the development of drug use and drug-related problems in adolescence and young adulthood. Individuals who report parental strife or separation as a child, physical and sexual abuse, parental drug abuse and depression, frequent family geographic relocation, and failure in school, also tend to report a high rate of experimentation with drugs, abusive consumption, and a range of psychological problems associated with heavy drug use.
Life-events theorists assume that negative events and chronic strains operate as “environmental stressors” that have the potential to elevate levels of anxiety and depression (i.e., negative effect). Individuals high in negative affect are, in turn, hypothesized to use drugs (particularly alcohol) as a means of self-medicating their strong social fears and depressive symptoms.
Current applications of the negative affect model may be problematic in situations where social anxiety, depression, and substance abuse are operationalized as DSM-diagnosed psychiatric disorders. Evidence has confirmed that, as defined by DSM, social phobia is antecedent to both major depression and substance dependence.
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