April 24, 2014

Study finds first drink of alcohol from a friend has lots of consequences

A national study led by University of Iowa researchers finds kids who get their first drink from a friend are more likely to drink sooner in life. The U-I’s Samuel Kuperman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, part of the reason is it’s easier to get a first drink from a friend.

“It’s available, I think that it’s also in situations where there aren’t parents, so maybe it’s at a party of some sort,” Kuperman says. “And it may be that there’s a kind of herd affect when kids are together they may make decisions that are ones that they may not make if they are with their families or by themselves.”

Kuperman says that drink from a friend can lead to some long-term troubles with alcohol. “A lot of kids that will experiment with alcohol may take a sip, but if they take a full whole drink, then they are more likely to develop drinking problems as they get older. So kids under the age of 15 are at a two to three times the risk of developing alcohol-related problems if they initiate the use of alcohol at that age,” Kuperman says.

A 2011 study by the University of Michigan showed One-third of eighth graders in the U.S. report they’ve tried alcohol. By 10th grade, more than half say they’ve had a first drink, and that percentage shoots to 70 percent by their senior year. Kuperman says parents can help by talking with their kids about the dangers of drinking and the possibility that their friends might try to get them to drink.

“The question I would ask listeners is the first time you had a drink of alcohol did it taste good? And I think most people would say ‘no it doesn’t taste good.” And so it’s okay for kids to say ‘no I don’t want to do that…I prefer not to, but I still want to be your friend, but I don’t want to.’ I think giving that message to kids that it is socially okay to say no,” Kuperman says.

The researchers are building a model of problem drinkers in an effort to find the things that determine if a kid may start drinking.

“And we think there are some family-related issues and maybe there are some behavioral issues that are part of that model. So kids who don’t do well with other kids or violate social rules are more likely to start drinking early,” according to Kuperman.

“But there also might be a genetic component to it. We are starting to look at some the genes that might involved in alcoholism and initiating drinking.” The current study drew from a pool of 820 kids at six sites across the country. The participants were 14 to 17 years old.

More than eight in 10 came from what the researchers deemed high-risk families, but more than half of the teenagers had no alcohol-dependent parents.