Impact of Early Consumption of Alcohol and Drugs on Later Behavior

Impact of Early Consumption of Alcohol and Drugs on Later Behavior

Education programs and intervention efforts aimed at teenagers often seek to eliminate immediate consequences by helping them make responsible choices about alcohol and drugs. One of the many areas requiring attention is keeping kids from immediate dangers, such as driving while intoxicated.

As teens are educated, however, it is also critical for those designing programs to understand how early drinking decisions affect young people in later life. Recently a study by Hingson, Heeren and Edwards explored these ongoing effects.

The researchers looked at people who had ever consumed alcohol to see whether an early age at the time of drinking onset and dependence then predicted drug use and dependence.

The study also looked at whether driving decisions were affected. The researchers wanted to explore whether drinkers who have used drugs have predictable patterns in behaviors relating to driving under the influence of drugs and motor-vehicle crash involvement because of drugs.

The study employed a United States national sample of 42,867 persons aged 18 and older. The participants were surveyed in 1991 to 1992. The researchers used logistic regression analysis to examine the associations between those who had ever consumed alcohol. There were numerous controls used for demographics and personal characteristics.

The results of the study showed that among participants that had ever consumed alcohol, 22 percent used drugs, 10 percent had driven under the influence of drugs, and nearly 1 percent had been in a motor-vehicle crash because of drug use, which is the equivalent of one million people.

The younger the age of the respondents when they began to drink and whether they had experienced alcohol dependence were associated with greater odds of having used drugs and experiencing drug dependence.

For those who had used both alcohol and drugs, having experienced drug dependence was the most significant predictor of driving under the influence of drugs and involvement in an automobile accident because of drug use.

The study has several implications for education and intervention programs. Programs to reduce drug-related automobile accidents needs to incorporate drug use prevention and treatment. There should also be attention given to prevention of early alcohol use and treatment for alcohol dependence.

The study provides important information for those educating and preventing alcohol and drug use and dependence. An early introduction to alcohol and drug use can have long-term effects in predicting other behaviors relating to alcohol and drugs.

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