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Interesting News About Underage Drinking 

March 06, 2015  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

While navigating all the news and local media about prescription pill abuse and the ongoing tragic loss of life from heroin overdoses, I have also been reading some interesting news releases about underage drinking. Although opiate abuse is an extremely important and serious issue, it’s important to remember that underage drinking is the most common substance abuse issue among Falmouth teens.

YouTube Videos of Drunkenness Don't Show Alcohol's Harms

According to the Washington Post, “University of Pittsburgh researchers watched, and coded, the 70 most popular YouTube videos depicting intoxication — a group that received, collectively, 333.2 million views.” To identify the videos, the research team used five common search terms for ‘intoxicated’: drunk, buzzed, hammered, tipsy, and trashed. 

Two findings of concern was the fact that almost half of the videos included references to specific alcohol brands; and, although more than 85 percent of the videos showed active intoxication, only 7 percent mentioned alcohol dependence.

The research team noted, ”This is the first comprehensive attempt to analyze YouTube data on intoxication, and these statistics should be valuable in guiding interventions.” The team further suggested that, “The popularity of these videos could provide an opportunity to educate teens and young adults about the dangers of drinking.”

Study Says Alcohol Ads Make Kids and Teens More Likely to Drink

Researches at the Dartmouth University Medical School examined the reach of television alcohol advertising and its effect on drinking among underage youth. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics “showed that teens receptive to alcohol ads on television such as while watching the notoriously-alcohol ad heavy Super Bowl, were more likely to drink.” According to James D. Sargent, MD, senior author on the study, “Alcohol companies claim their advertising does not affect underage drinking – that instead it is parents and friends that are the culprits. This study suggests otherwise – that underage youths are exposed to and engaged by alcohol marketing and this prompts initiation of drinking as well as transitions from trying to hazardous drinking."

Alcohol on Social Media Creates a Potent Mix for Users

A recent study published by Michigan State University, Alcohol’s Getting a bit More Social: When Alcohol Marketing Messages on Facebook Increase Young Adults' Intentions to Imbibe, suggests that beer and liquor producers are making a buzz in the habits of social-media users. The research team found a correlation between the liking and sharing of alcohol-related Facebook posts and the user’s intention of consuming alcohol.

Many of the posts contain alcohol brand information and target college students. With stricter limitations placed on television and radio advertisements, alcohol companies gear their ads toward an older and more age-appropriate audience. However, with the less restrictions on social media, these advertisements reach an underage audience.

According to the research team, “People as young as 13 years old can interact with these pages and share these pictures, posts, and videos. The alcohol companies are not stupid. They are very clever in trying to appeal to the emotional side of the consumers, including young adults.”

Cheap Drinks And Risk-Taking Fuel College Drinking Culture

According to a recent report from NPR’s health news bulletins, “There's no question that alcohol is a factor in the majority of sexual assaults on campus. And alcohol is abundant and very present at most colleges today. In fact, federal health officials say more than 80 percent of college students drink. And about half say they binge drink.”

The NPR transcript outlines the experience of a freshman college student named Alexa:

Last year, Alexa was a freshman at a West Coast college, who did not drink or party in high school. So it was a real shocker, she says, when she got to college and alcohol was everywhere. "You just step out your door and there's a whole community right there, it's easy, there's no challenge to it," she says. And parties where drinking games abound? No problem there, either. "In college I'd say there's probably a party five days out of the week," she says.

And even if it's not a party, Alexa says, kids drink in their dorm rooms while playing board games or cards. At first she just wasn't interested. But then she felt other students viewed her as unapproachable, even judgmental. So, she started going to parties, started drinking and got drunk a number of times. "My decision to 'fit in' backfired on me in the sense that when I did become inebriated, I didn't act how I usually act, present myself in a way which I'm proud of. I was just loud, obnoxious and probably a bit too honest with people I was just meeting and, yeah, I'm not proud of that.”

In a national survey of college freshmen, "The largest single factor that predicted the uptick of binge drinking for freshmen coming to college was the price they paid for a drink; it enormously increased their risk.” And, in most college towns,the price is right: It's cheap. Local bars compete through volume discounts; they make alcohol very cheap at the per-drink level. The bar makes money through volume: and, those bargain prices have a lot more to do with whether kids drank than public-health information about the dangers of alcohol.

Read the entire NPR transcript

Flavored Booze Beverages Tied to Higher Injury Risk in Teens

A new study from the Boston University School of Public Health reports that “consuming super-sized, flavored alcoholic beverages (especially super-sized 'alcopops,' which remain largely unregulated) greatly increases an underage drinker’s risk of injury.

More than 1,000 teens and young adults, aged 13 to 20, took part in an online survey asking about their drinking habits. According to the research team, “Those who said they drink super-sized versions of flavored alcohol beverages were more than six times as likely to say they'd suffered alcohol-related injuries as those who did not consume such beverages.” In a news release the researchers also noted that, ”Our findings were similar to those of other research indicating that mixing energy drinks with alcohol is associated with greater risk for both adverse outcomes of drinking and increased risk-taking behaviors.”

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