When and how young people start drinking alcohol can be a factor in determining whether they drink in ways that put them in immediate danger and whether they develop alcohol problems later. Initiating drinking at an early age, especially drinking heavily, has been associated with negative outcomes including alcohol abuse and dependence, lower academic achievement, risky sex, assaults, traffic crashes, and other substance use. How this happens however, is largely unknown. One possible explanation is that young people are exposed to different drinking environments, including some that model heaving drinking and enable it. In fact, some research suggests that early initiation to drinking may be due to environmental, rather than genetic or other predisposing factors.
This research project is designed to investigate the contribution of risky drinking environments to the development of early drinking and the progression to problems. We will collect detailed descriptions of drinking locations and where and when early drinking, heavy drinking, and intoxication occur. This will allow us to assess how the situations relate to the development of drinking, other substance use, and problems.