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MCAT

Unit 4: Lesson 1

Foundations of behavior passages

Marijuana usage as social behavior

Problem

In studies of drug usage, individual physical or psychological characteristics have been used to differentiate users from non-users. This approach, common in “deviant behavior” studies, assumes that certain traits of individuals predispose or motivate them to engage in negative behavior. However, some researchers have suggested that drug usage behavior should be instead viewed as interactive social processes, and that the influence of peers should be taken into account.
An early study (Study 1) focusing on marijuana users found that socialization is an important aspect in the maintained “pleasurable” usage of the drug (regular users). The researcher conducted participant observation and interviews with 50 marijuana users. Respondents who eventually used marijuana regularly were observed to undergo three stages:
1) they learn to smoke it in a way that produces real effects;
2) they learn to recognize the effects and connect them with drug use; and
3) they learn to enjoy the sensation they perceive. Individuals who do not go through the sequence of changes do not end up using marijuana regularly.
In a more recent study (Study 2) illustrating the social aspects of drugs, researchers used data from National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to further examine the peer effects of marijuana usage among adolescents grades 7-12. The investigators looked at close friends and classmates. The measure for close friends is “nominated peers”, which refers to the percentage of friends who used marijuana in the past 30 days and were named by the respondent as friends, and the classmates measure is “grade-level peers”, which refers to the percentage of peers who used marijuana in the past 30 days in the same grade and school as the respondent. The main results are shown below in Table 1.
Table 1: Increase in likelihood of individual marijuana usage (inpercent), with every 10, percent increase in nominated peers and grade-level peers
Nominated PeersGrade-Level Peers
Individual Usage Increase2, point, 8, percent4, point, 4, percent
Observations (n)6, comma, 73319, comma, 335
*The coefficients for both are significant (p-values=0, point, 000). The two groups are not mutually exclusive.
Source: Adapted from Becker, H. S. (1953). Becoming a Marihuana User. American Journal of Sociology, 59(3), 235-242. Ali, M. M., Amialchuk, A., & Dwyer, D. S. (2011). The Social Contagious Effect of Marijuana Use among Adolescents. Plos One. 6(1), e16183
According to the above study, which concept is most relevant for explaining sustained marijuana usage?
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