Students with Fake IDs at Greater Risk for Alcohol Abuse

Release Date: October 17, 2013 | By Sharyn Alden, HBNS Contributing Writer
Research Source: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research


  • Nearly two-thirds of a sample of college students reported using fake IDs at least once to obtain alcohol.
  • Students who used fake IDs more often drank more heavily and more often than students who did not.
  • The frequency of alcohol consumption, not the quantity, was associated with alcohol use disorder.
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A study found that almost two-thirds of college students used a fake ID at least once to obtain alcohol. Students who used false ID more often indirectly increased their risk for alcohol use disorder, according to a new longitudinal study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined by the abuse of and dependence on alcohol and is not only potentially harmful to a person’s health but may lead to other serious consequences such as automobile accidents, arrests, and academic failure.

The study assessed the drinking habits of 1,015 college students at one mid-Atlantic university over 4 years. Overall, students who used fake IDs tended to drink more and more often than those who did not. Of note, women used fake IDs more often than men did. The study also found that a higher risk of AUD was linked to increased frequency of drinking but not increased quantity of alcohol.

“One important new finding of this study is that heavier drinking patterns seem to be both a predictor and an outcome of false ID use,” said Ameila M. Arria, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “In other words, use of false IDs might be ‘adding fuel to the fire’ among students who are already high-risk drinkers. In order to curtail this problem, interventions targeted at youth and policies that enforce sanctions against false ID use are needed to reduce the availability and accessibility of alcohol.”

The study reveals that despite increased attention from researchers to binge drinking among youth, frequency of drinking may be just as important, say the researchers.

“I tend not to ask kids how they access alcohol—in my clinical experience, it can shut the person down because they may think you’re trying to get them in trouble rather than understand their experience,” said Sharon Levy, M.D., MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, director Adolescent Substance Abuse Program, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital. “With that said, I found it interesting that this study showed that drinking frequency was more highly associated with alcohol use disorder than drinking quantity. This is important because alcohol research is most often focused on quantity.”

Levy added that the study points the way to simple strategies that might help reduce problems associated with college drinking. “Targets for interventions should include reducing not only drinking quantity but also drinking frequency.”

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Tags for this article:
Alcohol/Drug Abuse   Relationships/Social Support   Promote your Health   Children and Young People's Health   Peer Influence   Lifestyle and Prevention  

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