Despite regulation, “underage college students find it easy to obtain alcohol and are more likely to binge drink than their legal-age peers” (Study, 2003). What are the implications? What is the role of formal control? And, are there racial differences among the young individuals that consume substances versus those that do not? This paper provides answers to these questions and more, through a review of formal studies conducted on the topic of substance abuse among the young people of the United States.
All of the studies have a different focus, and yet all of them enhance our understanding on the subject before we can attempt to answer the question: How can we help out the young individuals engaged in the problem behavior? 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
DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 2 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 premise 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.
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 DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 3 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. DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 4 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 in the community at large. 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. DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 5 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, this research 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
DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 6 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 that are 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
DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 7 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 DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 8 a serious problem. In other words, although the researchers 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. Conclusion Better methods of formal control, both on and off campus, could save countless lives by discouraging the use of substances by young individuals. Even young people who are using substances agree that they are discouraged by control policies.
Moreover, a clear indication of racial differences among substance abusers could lead colleges and policymakers to target the young racial population in question with regards to the problem behavior, in an attempt to solve the problem rather than to make it a mere racial issue. After all, knowing the kinds of young people who engage in the problem behavior would make it easier for college administration as well as policymakers to make programs and formulate policies that would especially help the target population deal with the problem.
Finally, it is plausible that wider publication of research concerned with the suffering caused by substance abuse would reduce the problem behavior in young individuals. Such research should be both psychological and sociological in nature, DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 9 allowing young individuals to understand the wider implications of the problem at hand.
Whereas psychological research would reveal, for example, that the consumption of drugs exacerbates problems related to heavy drinking, and that substance abuse might reduce the intelligence of the substance abusers over time; sociological research may reveal that substance abuse causes poverty by reducing the mental and physical capacities of the substance abusers. Heavy publication of such studies should help young individuals truly realize the folly of substance abuse before they can work on giving up the problem behavior.
While it is true that the problem of substance abuse is a reality among young individuals, the question for everybody else remains: How soon can we end this problem rather than to sit and watch it happen everyday? Fortunately, there are various studies being conducted to help society and individuals decide on ways to solve the problem for the young individuals that represent the future of humanity. Future researches should allow us to move forward in our understanding of the answer to the important question. Lastly, it must be remembered that substance abuse among the young is not a problem that concerns individuals alone.
Rather, the entire society must be involved in eradicating the problem seeing as the suffering caused by substance abuse reaches all corners of the society at the same time. DRINKING AND DRUG USE AMONG YOUNG INDIVIDUALS Page # 10 References 1. 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. 2. 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. 3. Study finds alcohol control policies deter underage drinking. (2003, April). The Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory and Application. 4. 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.