Alcohol Trends in Young Adults

Alcohol Trends in Young Adults

The use of alcohol by young adults is a measure that is carefully watched by experts in substance abuse treatment, as well as those who work to provide education and intervention programs for the public. Those in the early years of adulthood are transitioning from college and career development into their first full-time jobs and marriage and family.

While some who begin their early adulthood enjoying new freedoms through experimentation with alcohol, many of those individuals “age out,” trading partying for full-time employment as they graduate college and enter the work force.

However, for some, the party continues and the consequences are grave. The longer young adults prolong their abuse of alcohol, the longer they expose their bodies to increased risk of liver disease and multiple types of cancer.

A recent study by researchers based at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse showed that over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in substance abuse resulting in hospitalization. Between 1999 and 2008, there was a dramatic increase in hospitalizations for alcohol and drug overdose for those between the ages of 18 and 24.

The analysis showed that there was a 25 percent increase in hospitalizations related to alcohol overdose. In addition, there was a 56 percent increase observed in hospitalizations for drug overdose and a 76 percent increase for cases in which a combination of alcohol and drug overdose warranted hospitalization for those aged 18 to 24. The findings are disturbing, given the increased awareness among this age group about the risks associated with heavy alcohol and drug use.

The report also found that in 2008, a third of all hospitalizations for overdoses included some consumption of alcohol. For all individuals aged 18 and older, there were 1.6 million hospitalizations for overdoses in 2008. The total cost for these hospitalizations was $15.5 billion. Approximately half of the hospitalizations included alcohol overdoses. The findings support concern that heavy alcohol consumption represents a significant public health cost.

Many of the overdoses are occurring at an age when parents may still have significant influence in their children’s alcohol-related decision-making. Parents who suspect that their college-age son or daughter may be at risk for dangerous alcohol consumption should strive to keep communication open about alcohol and drug use.

The report findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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