Low Regard for Others Linked to Severity of Alcohol & Drug Use
A study published online on March 8, 2016, titled Low Other-Regard and Adolescent Addiction, explores the relationship between inconsiderate behaviors and alcohol and drug use severity in adolescents. In a study design with 579 youths ages 14 to 18 (52% female, 30% minority), a significant relationship was found between greater alcohol and drug use severity and increased likelihood of driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, and low volunteerism among boys. As the study abstract concludes, “Findings suggest that alcohol and drug use severity is associated with poor awareness of the impact of behaviors on others.” The studies conclusions suggest that helping others benefits adolescent addicts and alcoholics.
Is the “Me” Generation Really Different?
The authors provide a powerful argument that the current generation of adolescents have become more self-seeking and irresponsible in general. For instance, “Millennial youths have been coined the “Me Generation” in reference to an increased sense of entitlement, diminished gratitude, and me-first orientation. Youths have a greater focus on individualistic values, such as money, fame, and decreased concern for self-acceptance and community.” The authors believe a combination of national trends are behind this change for the worse, and single out increased consumerism, new technologies, the rise in bullying, and single-parent households as causes of the negative trend trend towards self-centeredness. They note a dramatic decline in youth volunteerism, and participation in community organizations, clubs such as Girl/Boy Scouts, after-school programs, and religious congregations.
AA Principles Are Helpful in Treatment
A very interesting aspect of the study is its heavy usage of Alcoholics Anonymous principles and literature. For instance, the authors note that “Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has long emphasized egocentric thinking as a root cause of addiction and helping others as its antidote.” In addition, in the Discussion section of the document the following references are found: “The tension between low insight about the impact of their actions on others and not fitting in is well captured in 12-step literature. “Almost without exception, alcoholics are tortured by loneliness… craving attention and companionship” (AA, 1981, p. 57). “He is like the farmer who came up out of his cyclone cellar to find his home ruined. To his wife he remarked, ‘Don’t see anything the matter here, Ma. Ain’t it grand the wind stopped blowing?’” (AA, 2001, p. 82).” The study also notes that AA is the most commonly sought program for alcohol and drug problems, and the authors state that 85% of Alcohol and Drug Treatment Programs recommend participation in AA and 12 step programs as adjunct treatment.
Helping Others Benefits Adolescent Alcoholics
The authors believe that this inability to understand the effects one’s behavior may have on others is an identifying characteristic of alcoholics and drug addicts. As the authors note, “Rather than a problem of moral character or psychopathology, alcoholics may be less sensitive to understand how their actions impact others as if hindered with characteristics aligned with autism.” The study concludes, “This research suggests that addiction is associated with low other-regard behaviors.” The authors also suggest that the study supports one of the fundamental precepts of Alcoholics Anonymous – helping others – as a component of treatment for alcoholics and drug addicts. “Approaches that cultivate alcoholics’ empathic curiosity and capacity to empathically understand others without judgment, such as Alcoholics Anonymous-related helping (AAH), may not only help sustain sobriety and increase low other-regard, but also improve the quality of interpersonal relationships.”