Reckless Drinking Related to Friends

Alcohol abuse may be more common in men with troublemaker friends and family

(RxWiki News) The root cause of alcohol abuse is a complex issue with no single or easy answer. Developing intervention strategies will have to consider multiple risks and protective factors.

A recent male-twin study looked at risk and protective factors for adolescent and adult alcohol abuse. The results of the study found that men with friends or family who engaged in risk-taking behavior or were troublemakers were more likely to abuse alcohol.

As the authors noted, teenage years are a time of development when young people want to try new things and engage in risk-taking behaviors, including alcohol abuse.

"Talk to your kids about alcohol abuse."

Marieke Wichers, PhD, associate professor in the School for Mental Health and Neuroscience at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, led the investigation into alcohol use during adolescence.

According to the authors, “High alcohol consumption, especially during adolescence, is a strong risk factor for problematic alcohol use later in life and other psychological and behavioral problems.”

For the study, 1,560 adult male twins were interviewed and surveyed about their drinking habits between the ages of 15 and 36. The men were already enrolled in the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Disorders (VATSPSUD).

Researchers looked for patterns between risk factors for alcohol use and abuse, protective factors that prevented alcohol misuse and abuse and patterns of alcohol use from adolescence into adulthood.

Risk factors included:

  • Genetic risks for problem alcohol use
  • Externalizing disorders (conduct disorder, impulse control and attention problems)
  • Sensation seeking
  • Peer group deviance (having troublemaker friends)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • School performance

Protective factors included:

  • Involvement in church-related activities
  • Parental attitudes towards drug and alcohol use
  • Parental monitoring

After analyzing risk and protective factors in relation to alcohol consumption patterns over the course of adolescence and adulthood, researchers found several links.

Risk factors of sensation seeking and poor school performance were associated with higher average drinking but not early heavy alcohol use.

Risk factors of peer deviance, ADHD symptoms, family history of externalizing disorders and family history of alcohol use increased the risk of alcohol use in early adolescence.

Family history of externalizing problem behaviors and peer troublemakers were the greatest predictors of initial high average alcohol consumption during adolescence.

The authors noted that family history of externalizing problem behaviors was associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption than family history of alcohol use disorders.

Researchers found that no risk factor was associated with the persistence of “extremely high levels” of alcohol use in the years of transition between adolescence and adulthood.

All of the protective factors decreased the risk of high and extremely high levels of alcohol use in adolescence and adulthood.

The study’s limitations included the lack of diversity in the participants, as they were white, only male and all from the state of Virginia.

The authors recommended that further study should be conducted on protective and risk factors associated with alcohol use in adolescence and persistent alcohol use into adulthood.

The authors concluded that deviant behavior of family and friends was a risk factor for high levels of alcohol consumption, while parental monitoring and involvement in church activities lowered the risk of high levels of alcohol consumption.

This study will be published in March in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The Dutch Medical Council, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse provided funding for the research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
January 22, 2013