Alcohol Consumption By Adolescents
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It's just another Friday night, but this time it's the guy's night out.
What do many teenage boys have on their mind? They want to go cruising down the
highway at 80 miles per hour with the windows down. Find some beer, and some
women that they can get drunk, have sex with and have something to tell about
the next day. The sad thing is, that most of the time it is true. A survey was
taken in Nebraska in September of 1995, which said 25.7% of adolescents aged 18
and younger said, they have used alcohol before having sex. That is just in
Nebraska alone (Courtney, 288, 1995). It is also said that Fraternity and
Sorority members drink more and drink more frequently than their peers and
accept as normal high levels of alcohol consumption and associated problems.
Fraternity-sponsored parties also may encourage heavy drinking. Studies have
found that students who consider parties or athletics important and those who
drink to get drunk appear most likely to binge drink or to drink heavily
(Shalala, 1, 1995 ).
Although alcohol use by adolescents is frequent, alcoholism is very rare.
Still, alcohol consumption by adolescents hinders normal development. Alcohol
intake by children can result in learning impairment, hyperactivity, and
personality and behavior problems, because today's society has accepted the
casual use of alcohol (Effects, 1996, 1). Among men, research suggests that
greater alcohol use is related to greater sexual aggression (Shalala, 1995, 2).
Students living on campuses with higher proportions of binge drinkers experience
more incidents of assault and unwanted sexual advances because of their peers'
drinking than do students residing on campuses with lower proportions of binge
drinkers (Shalala, 1995, 2). Some campuses sponsor alcohol awareness events and
classroom lectures and distribute information about alcohol use. Although such
education programs raise students' awareness of issues surrounding alcohol use,
these programs appear to have minimal effect on drinking and on the rates of
According to Donna E. Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services at
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, it seems that binge
drinkers appear to engage in more unplanned sexual activity and to abandon safe
sex techniques more often than students who do not binge drink (Shalala, 1995,
2). The purpose of this paper will prove whether or not Ms. Shalala is right or
The first study was done in 1992. The purpose of this study was to
explore the relationship of alcohol use to unsafe sex in Latinas. The study was
conducted using telephone interviews. The interviews were conducted with 523
currently sexually active Latinas aged 18-49 years old. The telephone survey
employed a modified Mitofsky-Waksberg sampling technique to identify Latino
households in nine states with concentrations of Latinos ranging from 5 to 39%
in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, Arizona,
Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Latinos in these states represent 77% of all
United States Latinos (Marín, 1992, 1103).
The screening procedure involved identifying the ethnicity, gender, and
age of household members. Potential respondents were asked "Do you or any of the
members of your household consider yourselves to be Latinos or Hispanics?" An
eligible respondent in the household was selected using the Kish method, which
lists all adult household members and then uses one of 12 possible selection
schemes to randomly select among those eligible (Marín, 1992, 1104).
Interviewers were bilingual males and females. Experienced interviewers
recruited respondents by telling them this was a national health survey and that
the topic was AIDS. Interviewers received specific training on how to ask the
highly personal questions used in this research (Marín, 1992, 1104).
A response rate in survey sampling can be defined as the ratio of the
number of questionnaires completed of eligible elements to the number of
eligible elements in the sample. Businesses, faxes, and non households were
ineligible for reporting. After these were eliminated, age and gender of adults
in the household was determined for 67.1% of eligible telephone numbers. Also
86.4% of those contacted who met the requirements for the study provided
complete interviews. A response rate of 58% for the entire sample was obtained
(Marín, 1992, 1104-5). The interviews were 100 open-ended calls, and two gender
exclusive focus groups with Latinos and Latinas in San Francisco. Its purpose
was to identify perceived consequences of condom use with secondary and primary
partners, difficulties with condom use, and the average aspects of use. The
final version of the interview took an average of 24 minutes to complete and
explored a variety of topics related to condoms and sexual behavior. The
questions mainly asked about alcohol use prior to sex, sexual comfort, self-
effectiveness scale, secondary partner response to condom use, and acculturation
(Marín, 1992, 1105).
Of the 624 Latinas aged 18-49 interviewed in this study, 523 (83.8%)
were sexually active. These women provided responses to the question about
alcohol use prior to sex. Fully 65% indicated that they never used alcohol prior
to sex, 28% said they used alcohol less than half the time, and only 7.5% used
alcohol half the time or more (Marín, 1992, 1106). The demographic
characteristics of Latinas who use or do not use alcohol before sex are shown in
the table below. There were a number of differences between the groups. Alcohol
users were younger [t(519) = 2.3, p < .05], better educated [t(519) = 2.7, p < .
01], more acculturated [t(519) = 2.3, p < .001], had fewer children [t(519) =
4.1, p < .001], and showed a trend toward being employed longer outside the home
[t(519) = 1.7/ p < .10] (Marín, 1992, 1106). To clarify the effect of
acculturation in this sample, depending on the level, the highly acculturated
women were more likely to have two or more sexual partners, more likely to use
alcohol before having sex, and more likely to use condoms with a secondary
partners (Marín, 1992, 1106).
In this study, alcohol use prior to sex was associated with greater
numbers of sexual partners., but also with more experience with condoms. Thus,
alcohol use prior to sex may be a marker for the broader process of
acculturation. Acculturation in Latinas has been associated with higher
likelihood of multiple sexual partners and with greater use of alcohol, but also
with higher likelihood of carrying condoms (Marín, 1992, 1109). In and
exploratory analysis we found that among those 55 women who reported secondary
partners, use of alcohol before sex was associated with greater condom use, even
with the effects of acculturation (Marín, 1992, 1109). This study does agree
with Mrs. Shalala's hypothesis.
The second study was conducted in 1993. It was conducted to examine the
relationship between drug and alcohol use, personal network characteristics, and
sexual risk behaviors. The study focused on social factors that may account for
the relationship between substance use and sexual risk behaviors. In the study,
social environment factors such as drinking with friends, drinking in bars, and
patterns of purchasing alcohol with friends have been found to have a strong
influence on alcohol consumption, both in term of frequency and quantity.
Another factor the study wanted to examine was the relationship between use of
different substances and sexual behavior.
To conduct this study, respondents were recruited from the AIDS Linked
to Intravenous Experiences (ALIVE) study, a natural history study of HIV
infection in IDUs in Baltimore. The primary means of recruitment for the ALIVE
study were community outreach and word-of-mouth. ALIVE clinic participants who
were 18 years or older and reported at their regular 6-month follow-up visit
that they had injected drugs in the preceding 6 months and shared drugs were
asked to participate in the Stop AIDS for Everybody (SAFE) study. All
participants were administered a detailed survey on their background, drug, and
sexual behaviors followed by a personal network interview. The personal network
instrument asked participants to list, by giving the first name and the first
letter of the last name or pseudonym, members of their personal network. They
were first asked to list individuals that they had known for at least one month
who they could go to for support in the domains of: intimate interactions,
material assistance, socializing, physical assistance, positive feedback, and
health information (Latkin, 1993, 161-3).
Out of 297 volunteers, seven failed to meet the eligibility requirement
at rescreening. The 290 respondents were predominately of low income, African-
American (96%), male (84%), and reported receiving public assistance (70%)
(Latkin, 1993, 163). Within the last six months, 21% had been in jail and 40%
had been homeless. The average age for men was 39 years and the range was 24 to
56 years; for women the average age was 37 years, the median was 35, and the
range was 27 to 55 years. Daily use of alcohol was reported by 29% of the
respondents. Individuals who reported daily alcohol use drank significantly more
on the days they drank than those who reported drinking less than daily (mean of
11.1 vs. 5.2 drinks per day, t = 4.88, P <.01) (Latkin, 1993, 163). Most of the
males (90%) and females (77%) reported that they were sexually active in the
prior six months. The average number of partners for men was two and one for
women. Over half the males (57%) reported more than one partner in the last six
months, over two-fifths (40%) reported "one-night stands", and one-third (33%)
reported "giving drugs or money for sex" (Latkin, 1993, 163-4). Fewer females
reported multiple partners (28%) or casual partners (21%), though 26% reported
receiving drugs or money for sex at least once in the last six months. The
reported use of condoms was sporadic. More than one-third (38%) reported that
they never used condoms and only 29% reported that they used condoms more than
half of the times they had sex. These results indicate that among heavy drinkers,
and those with larger, lower density personal networks have increased levels of
sexual risk behaviors (Latkin, 1993, 166). In the end, this study said that
people with drinking habits do have a tendency to have risky sexual behavior.
This study also agrees with Mrs. Shalala's hypothesis.
The third study was conducted in 1995. It was conducted to see if
alcohol-related blackouts, craving and risky sexual behavior are common among
adolescents with alcohol use disorders and are an important focus for assessment
and treatment efforts. The most recent diagnostic criteria for alcohol use
disorders commonly used in the U.S. are contained in the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. (DSM-IV) (Martin, 1995, 672).
The DSM-IV framework provides a system of operationally defined symptoms, and
standard definitions of problem areas and allow clear communication among and
between clinicians and researchers in the field. To qualify for a DSM-IV alcohol
dependence diagnosis, at least three of seven symptoms must be present within a
12-month period. The DSM-IV symptoms are: (D1) tolerance; (D2) withdrawal, or
use of alcohol to avoid withdrawal; (D3) drinking "in larger amounts or for a
longer period than was intended"; (D4) "a persistent desire or unsuccessful
efforts to cut down or control" drinking; (D5) spending a great deal of time
"obtaining, using, or recovering from" alcohol; (D6) "important social,
occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced" because of
drinking; and (D7) "continued use despite knowledge of having had a recurrent or
persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or
exacerbated by" alcohol (Martin, 1995, 673).
Subjects for this study were 181 adolescents (91 male, 90 female) who
participated in the assessment protocol of the Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol
Research Center (PAARC). Approximately 50% of the subjects were recruited from
alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs and 50% from community
advertisements. The kids who took part in this study participated in a day-long
assessment protocol that characterized alcohol and drug use, substance use
disorders, and areas such as health status, family interactions and comorbid
psychopathology. Subjects were paid $100 in the form of gift certificates upon
completion of the protocol (Martin, 1995, 674).
Subjects were aged 13-21 years; black subjects comprised 26.5% of the
sample, the remainder were white. The sample had a range of 1-5 on the 5-point
SES index of Hollingshed. Adolescents with alcohol dependence had an average of
5.3 (+-) 0.77 DSM-IV abuse and dependence symptoms, which is somewhat less than
the average of 6.6 DSM-III symptoms reported for adults with dependence (Martin,
1995, 675). The highest item-total correlations were for D3 and D6. The lowest
item-total correlations were for D7 and D2. The highest inter-item correlations
were for D5 with D6 and D5 with D3. Overall, the dependency symptoms showed
moderate to high covariation. In some of the results, risky sexual behavior for
drinkers with no alcohol diagnosis was 5.8%, and it was 12.0% for the DSM-IV
alcohol abuse diagnosis, and 16.1% for DSM-IV alcohol dependence diagnosis
(Martin, 1995, 677). Patterns of alcohol abuse symptoms were very heterogeneous
among adolescents with DSM-IV alcohol abuse (Martin, 1995, 678). This study also
says that frequent alcohol use can be related to risky sexual behavior, and also
agrees with Mrs. Shalala's hypothesis.
In conclusion, the first study said that alcohol use prior to sex
appears to be an infrequent behavior of Latinas as a group due to cultural
prohibitions about substance use. However, more frequent use of alcohol prior to
sex for women with secondary partners was associated with more frequent condom
use. Alcohol use in highly acculturated women may be a marker of more assertive
behavior in general, including self-protective sexual behavior (Marín, 1992,
The second study concludes that there is a need for more intensive HIV
prevention and alcohol and drug treatment programs for injecting drug users and
their partners. Drinking once a day or more was associated with risky sexual
practices independent of use of cocaine and heroin. Partners of these heavy
drinking, IDUs are at triple jeopardy: their partners are injecting drugs, tend
to have multiple high risk partners, and are less likely to use condoms.
Consequently, these partners should be a high priority for targeted HIV
prevention intervention (Latkin, 1994, 166).
The third study concludes that adolescent alcohol use disorders should
focus on ways to produce more homogeneous subgroups, so that more can be learned
about the etiology, prevention, and treatment of adolescent alcohol-related
problems. This is necessary for future research advances on the etiology and
treatment of these problems (Martin, 1995, 678).
So in the end, Mrs. Shalala's statement is correct, and that kids who
drink, do in fact have more of a risky sex-life. The real issue here is not sex
and alcohol, but today's society, and what they think and do about kids having
sex, getting drunk, or both. Society as a whole should take action against these
things. They should make laws stricter for kids, and adults who buy kids alcohol.
They should have more sex education in high schools and colleges, and they need
to tell things like they are, and not hide the fact that kids are having sex.
All of us need to think of some ways we can educate these kids to prevent them
from this type of behavior. What are a few things YOU can do to help these kids
who go get drunk and screw all the women that will let them. Worst of all, he
may get one of them pregnant. Then he has to deal with her, and a baby for the
rest of his life. And you know something, he may not even know her.
Courtney, Kathie, and Ian M. Newman. "Sexual Behavior of Nebraska
Adolescents." Nebraska Medical Journal. September 1995. 287-289.
Latkin, Carl et al. "The Relationships Between Sexual Behavior, Alcohol
Use, and Personal Network Characteristics Among Injecting Drug
Users in Baltimore, Maryland." Sexually Transmitted Diseases. May
June 1994. 161-167.
Martin, Christopher S. et al. "Patterns of DSM-IV Alcohol Abuse and
Dependence Symptoms in Adolescent Drinkers." Journal of Studies
on Alcohol. November 1995. 672-680.
Maron, Barbara VanOss, and Elena Flores. "Acculturation, Sexual Behavior,
and Alcohol Use among Latinas." The International Journal of the
Addictions. 29(9) 1994: 1101-1114.
Shalala, Donna E. Alcohol Alert. No. 29 PH 357. July 1995.
"The Effects of Alcohol on Children and Teens"
Depts/Cesar/menet/alca4a4.mnu. Internet. 6 October 1996.