An increasing number of children and adolescents in Canada and the United States face a large number of social and psychological risk factors for substance use and abuse, such as alcohol and illicit drugs. These risk factors are challenging children and youth at a younger and younger age. According to Haans and Hotton (2004), there is a multiplicity of reasons why young people first begin to use alcohol and drugs and persist in their substance use, including curiosity, boredom, peer pressure, self-medication, or as a general coping strategy to deal with negative affective states or other social, psychological, or medical problems. Both American and Canadian research indicates that the use of alcohol and drugs among those under the age of 18 years old has continued to be significant over the past 15 years (Haans and Hotton, 2004; Rosenbaum and Hanson, 1998; West and O’Neal, 2004; Johnson, O’Malley, & Bachman, 1999), during a period in which the public has developed a more casual attitude regarding moderate marijuana and cocaine use, but which has also seen a general increase in the quantity of court cases involving drug possession and trafficking.
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