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Teenage Drinking and the Onset of Alcohol Dependence: A Cohort Study Over Seven Years

NCJ Number
Addiction Volume: 99 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2004 Pages: 1520-1528
Yvonne A. Bonomo; Glen Bowes; Carolyn Coffey; John B. Carlin; George C. Patton
Date Published
December 2004
9 pages
This study examined whether adolescent alcohol use and/or other adolescent health-risk behavior predisposes a person to alcohol dependence in young adulthood.
Between August 1992 and December 1998, a seven-wave cohort study of adolescent health was conducted in Victoria, Australia. A community sample of approximately 2,000 individuals was followed from ages 14-15 to 20-21 years. A total of 1,601 young adults (82 percent of all cohort participants) were interviewed between April and December 1998. The students completed measures at intervals of 6 months between the 9th and 12th years (six waves). Alcohol consumption was assessed at each survey. Those individuals who reported drinking alcohol were asked to complete a diary that recorded categories of alcohol and amounts consumed in the 7 days prior to the survey. Three broad categories of alcohol-related consequences were examined: intense drinking, alcohol-related accidents or injuries, and alcohol-related sexual risk-taking. Other measures were tobacco use, cannabis use, antisocial behavior, psychological distress, and peer alcohol use. The study found that approximately 90 percent of the participants consumed alcohol by age 20, with 47 percent of the young adults conforming to DSM-IV alcohol dependence criteria. Alcohol dependence in young adults was preceded by higher persisting teen rates of frequent drinking, intense drinking, high-dose tobacco use, and antisocial behavior. After adjusting for other teen predictors, frequent drinking and antisocial behavior held persistent independent associations with later alcohol dependence. There were no prospective associations with emotional disturbance in adolescence. The authors advise that prevention and early intervention to reduce longer term alcohol-related harm should address factors that contribute to alcohol consumption during adolescence, such as the accessibility of alcohol. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 42 references