Research On Drinking And Drug Use Among Young Individuals

Published 27 Feb 2017

Substance Abuse Among College Students

Binge drinking and drug use are very common among young adults, including college students. As a matter of fact, young people are also facing dire consequences of substance abuse with falling grades, drunken driving accidents, sexual harassment, and violence. Unsurprisingly, society views this as a serious problem, and psychologists are trying to understand substance abuse among young adults before they can hope to provide help to the individuals concerned. This effort on the part of researchers is based on the premises that we cannot solve a problem before we understand the nature of the problem. Hence, Melanie E. Bennett, Joseph E. Miller, and W. Gill Woodall (1999) published their study on substance abuse to expand researchers’ knowledge on the subject in question.

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Through this study, the researchers sought to examine the patterns and correlates of drinking, binge drinking, underage drinking, and substance-related negative consequences over a period of three years. The study allowed for an examination of changes in use patterns over the specified period of time. Moreover, the researchers sought to compare Hispanic, non-Hispanic white and other students on drinking patterns as well as the patterns of consequences. Finally, the researchers sought to examine the effects of illicit drug use as well as alcohol use on drinking patterns and consequences. The researchers had hypothesized that with students consuming a

greater number of substances, their problem patterns of drinking would increase. In addition, students who use greater number of substances would experience more substance-related negative consequences.
This study used the survey method to collect data. Students from a large, southwestern university in the United States were surveyed. These students included minority correspondents. Furthermore, the survey was repeated over a course of three years.

The results of this study revealed, once again, that drinking, underage drinking, and binge drinking are common among college students. However, all students did not suffer because of drinking. Instead, the amount of trouble caused by drinking is directly related to the frequency of alcohol use. Further, the research revealed that there are, indeed, ethnic differences with regards to drinking among college students. Hispanic students reported more binge drinking, while non-Hispanic, nonwhite students reported higher rates of abstinence. Finally, the researchers found that drug use in combination with alcohol increases the likelihood of problem drinking behavior and also the negative consequences of substance abuse.

These results give direction to campus programs against substance abuse. Now that colleges know the kinds of students who may display high-risk patterns of drinking, they can target these students via campus programs against substance abuse. What is more, campus programs may now be made to focus more on drug use, given that it is drug use in combination with alcohol use that gives rise to greater problems.
All the same, this research also has limitations that future studies may seek to avoid. The present study used a rather brief survey that completely left out questions about the peak quantity, frequency of intoxication, reasons for alcohol and drug use, and alcohol expectancies. Additionally, although the researchers sampled a large group of Hispanic students, they did not choose an equal number of black and non-Hispanic white students. Choosing an equal number of black and non-Hispanic white students in a future study, is more likely to show a clearer picture of ethnic differences in drinking patterns among college students.

Underage Drinking In Communities Across The United States

Another study, conducted by Jacob M. Montgomery, Kristie Long Foley, and Mark Wolfson (2006) sought to understand the differences in state policies and community programs to address the problem of underage drinking. Research has already shown that underage drinking leads to severe problems in the individuals who engage in it, as well as the community. Homicide has also been cited as a consequence of underage drinking. Hence, researchers have believed that it is essential to understand the problem thoroughly before society as a whole is able to solve it.

Compliance checks on underage drinking in the United States involve the use of underage decoys sent by law enforcement agencies to attempt to purchase tobacco and alcohol from different shops. Another program, known as Cops in Shops, deploys undercover cops in retail outlets to detect and cite youth attempting to purchase alcohol. Montgomery et al. sought to find out about the state, communal, and organizational characteristics associated with law enforcement agencies’ decisions to use either of the two programs to curb underage drinking. In order to find out about the bases of these decisions, the researchers used data collected in the year 1999 among law enforcement agencies in all 50 states of America. This data was collected through cross-sectional telephone interviews conducted as part of the Tobacco Enforcement Study. The participants in this study consisted of city police departments, departments of public safety, in addition to sheriffs and county police.

Relating the implementation of alcohol compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs to state level policies, agency resources, and community demographics, the results of this study revealed that there are more of local enforcement agencies in the United States using alcohol compliance checks instead of the Cops in Shops program. This is because compliance checks do also control tobacco use among underage consumers, thereby using community resources more effectively. The Cops in Shops program is more expensive for most communities. However, communities that use special community policing units are more likely to use the Cops in Shops programs, seeing that these communities are spending more on policing in any case.

Given that all communities of the United States view underage drinking as a serious problem related to sexual misconduct, violence, alcohol-related vehicle accidents, and even homicide – the results of this study provide guidance to communities that would like to make their underage drinking policies stricter in implementation. By looking at the different characteristics of communities that use more compliance checks as compared to Cops in Shops, those communities which struggle to use appropriate policies to control underage drinking, may very well reach a conclusion about the right direction to take with reference to their communal needs. Hence, thisьresearch is a significant step in the right direction. Additionally, the research design is strong and comprehensive because it includes all states of America in order to understand the subject.

Even so, the present study has limitations that future studies of this kind will be expected to transcend. Montgomery et al. have failed to address the question of where exactly the compliance checks are held. Are compliance checks focused on premise or off-sale outlets? Moreover, the researchers do not provide detailed information about the states that use compliance checks versus Cops in Shops. In particular, the researchers have failed to provide the answer to the question: What are the state and local policies and laws pushing the law enforcement agencies to propose compliance checks instead of Cops in Shops, and vice versa? Undoubtedly, the importance of this study needs further elucidation with respect to its subject.

Underage Drinking Among College Students

Henry Wechsler, Jae Eun Lee, Toben F. Nelson, and Meichun Kuo (2002) have also conducted a study regarding underage drinking. This study sought to understand underage drinking among different students groups, in different colleges, and in states with different control policies on underage drinking. Given that underage drinking leads to health and psychological problems, besides academic difficulties, antisocial behavior, and other negative consequences we have already described, the research conducted by Wechsler et al. was a very important one. By relating underage drinking to the control policies in different states, the results of this study were meant to provide direction to lawmakers.

Wechsler et al.’s study analyzed data that was previously collected for four different studies. The researchers used the data collected through the 2001 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study, a survey of students in 120 separate colleges in the United States. The 2001 study was a follow-up survey to a study that was originally conducted in the year 1993, and then repeated in 1997 and 1999. Weschler et al. compared data collected in 2001 with three previous samples to examine trends over time.

The 2001 survey asked students questions about alcohol use and associated problems, in addition to questions about the lifestyles of students and their demographic and background information. Wechsler et al. later used chi square tests and logistic regression, etc, to better understand underage drinking among college students.
The results of the new research revealed that underage students drink alcohol less frequently. However, they are more likely to drink to excess whenever they drink. Furthermore, college educational efforts and deterrent policies are limited in their outreach, seeing that half of the underage students reported obtaining alcohol fairly easily. In states where there are extensive laws restricting underage and high-volume drinking, underage students are less likely to drink and to binge drink. Lastly, a vast majority of underage students report that they are in favor of increased efforts to control underage drinking.
The main strength of this research is, of course, that it directs policymakers to increase their efforts to control underage drinking. Underage college students are more likely to drink less in the face of strict policies against underage drinking. As for the new policies to be implemented to curb underage drinking, the results of this study suggest that lawmakers must look at the number of alcohol selling outlets as a potential problem in most communities. This is because underage students find it very easy to buy alcohol. All the same, the present study using comprehensive data collected from 120 colleges across the nation, does not provide details about the policies that are missing in communities where underage drinking among college students is a serious problem. In other words, although the researches debate on minimum age laws, etc, they fail to address details of the policies in operation. This happens to be a limitation of this study, given that this research report would have been even more useful in lawmaking if various options were discussed in it. Different states, in that case, would have evaluated their own policies with respect to others in an effort to find better solutions to the problem of underage drinking.


  • Bennett, Melanie E., Joseph E. Miller, and W. Gill Woodall. (1999). Drinking, Binge Drinking, and Other Drug Use Among Southwestern Undergraduates: Three-Year Trends. American Journal of Alcohol Abuse, 25(2), pp. 331–350.
  • Montgomery, Jacob M., Kristie Long Foley, and Mark Wolfson. (2006). Enforcing the minimum drinking age: state, local and agency characteristics associated with compliance checks and Cops in Shops programs. Addiction, 101, pp. 223–231.
  • Wechsler, Henry, Jae Eun Lee, Toben F. Nelson, and Meichun Kuo. (2002, March). Underage College Students’ Drinking Behavior, Access to Alcohol, and the Influence of Deterrent Policies. Journal of American College Health, Vol. 50, No. 5, pp. 223-236.
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