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November 06, 1987 - Image 103

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-06

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Use and Abuse

Experts find that drug and alcohol abuse is
more prevalent among singles than marrieds


Special to The Jewish News


aving the opportunity to go
bar-hopping, to parties or
out for a drink with friends
is part of the singles life-
style. Perhaps the freedom
to do all these things, which their
married counterparts lack because of
the responsibilities of spouse and
children, leads many singles down the
path of alcohol or drug abuse.
However, being single is not the cause
for abuse of either. A single lifestyle
simply fails to alter the established
pattern which may have led an in-
dividual into drug use or alcohol
abuse prior to adulthood.
According to a continuing study
by the University of Michigan's In-
stitute for Social Research (ISR), mar-
ried people show a decrease in drug
and alcohol abuse in post-high school
years, whereas single adults who do
not live with their parents show an in-
crease in both drug use and heavy
drinking during the same period of
Whatever the cause, the drug pro-

blem among singles is there, and it af-
fects not only the single person, but
those around him or her. "Anybody
who's addicted has a series of people
around them who they use. It could be
parents, it could be children, it could
be spouses," says Barbara Wolf, pro-
gram director of substance abuse ser-
vices for Oakland Family Services, an
Oakland County-supported program.
"Even if somebody's single, there's
generally somebody who is going to
bail 'em out. That might be the
parents instead of the spouse . . . Ad-
diction is seen as a systemic disease,
so that everybody's affected by
somebody who's addicted. So that (if)
there's one person who's addicted,
they're single, they've affected
everyone that they're intimate or
close to."
Recent statistics from the
Oakland County Health Department
show that more than two-thirds of the
people who go through their out-
patient, substance abuse treatment
programs are either single or
separated. In the first six months of
1986, 17,129 people were served by a
county substance abuse program —

44.7 percent had never been married,
16.5 percent were divorced and 1.6
percent widowed. Another 6.5 percent
were separated, leaving 30.8 percent
married. Statistics for 1984 are
remarkebly similar. In that year, 61.4
percent of those treated were not mar-
ried, 5.5 percent were separated and
33.1 percent were married.
The ISR study agrees with the
health department numbers, accor-
ding to Dr. Jerald Bachman, one of
the study's authors (along with Drs.
Lloyd Johnston and Patrick
O'Malley). The ISR study focuses on
drug use among high school seniors
and includes follow-up studies on
those same people after high school,
at two-year intervals.
Bachman says that of the subjects
in their study who marry after leav-
ing high school, "on average, there is
a drop in heavy drinking, there is a
drop in marijuana use and there
tends to be drops in the use of other
illicit drugs as well."
Bachman continues, "the in-
dividual who stays in the parental
house (after leaving high school)
tends not to show as much of a change

in drug use as those who move out.
Those who move out and are married,
tend to show a decline. Those who
move out and are single, they tend t
show a rise," in drug use or alcohol
abuse. "So it's not just that the mar-
rieds are not in a single lifestyle,
there's something more to it than
that. But on the other hand, a single
lifestyle, in contrast to living with
parents, also seems to produce an of

Cocaine use follows the same
trend, but its use also increases with
age in post-high school years, pro-
bably because most young adults can-
not afford it. Post-high school cocaine
use by married adults remains cons-
tant in the ISR study, but rises among
all singles, and continues to rise as
they get older.
Another recent finding indicates
that it is not merely a marriage
license which stops people from using
drugs or drinking heavily. "We have
now found," says Bachman, "that
those people who describe themselves
as engaged, show some of the same
sort of decline in drug use that we see
in connection with marriage. That

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