Binge drinking youth more likely to take part in risky behaviours

Mar 6, 2020

According to the results of two recent scientific studies published in the journal Pediatrics, adolescents who engage in binge drinking behaviour or abuse prescription opioids are significantly more likely to engage in other risky behaviors.

The first study examined driving outcomes associated with binge drinking, and involved researchers following over 2,000 teens for four years starting in their senior year of high school, when approximately 27% of participants reported binge drinking. The study demonstrates that teens who binge drink are significantly more likely to drive drunk or accept rides from drivers who are intoxicated when they reach early adulthood. Moreover, according to study results, they are more likely to practice extreme binge drinking and experience blackouts.

The study also looked at what impact the parent’s awareness of their teens behaviour had on their risky behaviours; generally the young people in the study who had parents who were aware of any binge drinking during adolescence and who had discouraged such activity, were less likely to engage in risky drinking or driving behaviours as young adults. In keeping with that, the adolescents who were binge drinkers were twice as likely to become extreme binge drinkers as young adults.

“Parental practices may have enduring effects protecting emerging adults against driving while intoxicated, riding while intoxicated, and blackouts several years after high school.”

Dr. Federico Vaca, lead study author, Yale School of Medicine

The second study led by Dr. Devika Bhatia at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, looked at opioid use from survey data collected from a sample of nearly 15,000 U.S. high school students in 2017. The data showed that over 14% of the students had misused prescription opioids at least once.

Study results show that when adolescents abuse prescription opioids, they are significantly more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors, abuse alcohol and other drugs, experience violence, engage in risky sexual behaviors, and even attempt suicide.

“Substance use such as prescription opioid misuse may alter a misuser’s judgment and cognition, thus potentially increasing likelihood for engagement in other risky behaviors. Additionally, engaging in prescription opioid misuse may have an impact on peer groups that are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors,” .  

Dr. Devika Bhatia, to Reuters

Moreover, the study shows that teens with a previous history of prescription opioid misuse, were 23 times more likely to have used heroin, approximately 19 times more likely to have tried methamphetamines, 16 times more likely to have tried cocaine, and over 10 times as likely to have tried cannabis.

A history of prescription opioid misuse was also associated with with five to six times greater likelihood that adolescents would try smoking or vaping, and would be 4 times more likely to have at least 4 previous sex partners and have had sexual intercourse without condoms. Misuse of prescription opioids also increased the odds of drunk driving by more than 6 times.