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Social conditioning and Generation Y

An important factor to consider when determining how to decrease the amount of drug and alcohol use among young people is to focus some attention on what they’re being taught through mainstream media. To understand what Generation Y is being sold to believe, what they’re reading and what they’re watching, is to understand how they are being socially conditioned.

Generation Y, which is a term that refers to those born between the years 1980 and 2000, is the first generation to have experienced learning social norms and standards from the Internet, social networking sites, reality TV shows and celebrity news. There has been no other generation in history that has been influenced by such a broad scope of social, pop-cultural and world-political views, religious/spiritual information, values and current events. Moreover, similar to preceding generations, the decisions to experiment with and use drugs and alcohol can be very easily attributed to marketing strategies of the media. Studies show that the use of illicit drugs is not declining, but actually increasing. Generation Y has lower risks of alcoholism, but subsequently is facing higher risks of binge drinking, marijuana use, medical and non-medical use of prescription pills. (NIDA 2014)

Mainstream media in America has played a huge role in glamorizing drugs and alcohol since the 1980s. Despite the efforts brought forth to educate the public about the dangers of drugs and alcohol via Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Just Say No campaigns, AIDs research and health awareness programs in the 1980s, television shows and movies continued to glamorize the use of drugs and alcohol, as well as the recovery culture and “getting sober”. This created a major social paradigm shift in regards to the dangers of drugs and alcohol. People fled to 12-step meetings, near and far – getting sober became the “in” thing to do. More recently, celebrity rehab shows are having a similar effect – unintentionally, young viewers are at the very least learning some lessons about recovering from drugs and alcohol. In one way, exposing a celebrity’s addiction can draw attention to the subject matter and assist in educating the public about how to get help for an addiction; but, on the other hand, it could also have potential to glamorize the lifestyles of these drug addicted/alcoholic celebrities.

Publicized media plays a major part in selling an idea, whether it be an ethical social norm, or a social taboo. When the word “rehab” is Google searched it yields 48,000 results, 22,000 of these results also contain the word ‘celebrity’. The association with ‘sobriety’, ‘drugs’, and ‘alcohol’ in relation to the celebrity lifestyle could potentially be damaging to a younger population. A question one might consider asking themselves regarding Generation Y and their drug and alcohol use is, is the media helping or hurting?

Is Generation Y being negatively affected by publicized recovery TV shows?

  • According to a study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in January 2014, the use of illicit drugs has been increasing. In 2012, an estimated 23.9 million Americans aged 12 and up, 9.2 percent of the population, had used illicit drugs or abused a psychotherapeutic drug such as a pain reliever, stimulant or tranquilizer in the past month. In 2002, the percentage of Americans in the same age bracket using illicit drugs and psychotherapeutic drugs was 8.3 percent (NIDA 2014)
  • Studies show that prescription stimulant usage has increased from five million to 45 million and the spending on prescription medications has increased by 200 billion dollars in two decades (The Clinton Foundation 2015)
  • There are 18.9 million people who are current marijuana users, with 7.3 percent of them aged 12 and up, comprising 14.4 million current marijuana users, which is a large increase compared to the 5.8 percent in 2007. (NIDA 2014) This increase is most likely due to the legalization of marijuana in certain states and possible influence of the changing perspectives surrounding the substance

Social conditioning via marketing and media doesn’t always convey a moral message to society. The emphasis on monetary value resulting from media marketing’s psychological and social conditioning, is one of the strongest manipulators of society, especially of a young demographic. Young adults of Generation Y, as well as adults in general, should be aware of the impact the media has on their mental and emotional health; as well as a strong impact upon their perception of substance use and abuse.

If addiction to drugs or alcohol has surfaced in your life or the life of a loved one, it is good to know there is help just around the corner. If you would like more information on how to find treatment for drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, you can call the Recovery Helpline at 855-441-4405 to speak to a member of our team and start the journey to recovery today.

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