The slippery slope of fake IDs and underage drinking

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Teens have been using fake IDs to buy alcohol for as long as there have been minimum legal drinking age laws.

But besides putting young people at risk for trouble with the law, a new study suggests that false identifications may be linked to an increased risk of developing alcohol use disorders (AUDs) among college students.

Easy accessibility

The study, which will be published in the March 2014 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that while underage students tend to drink less than their older college peers, being under 21 was related to higher-risk drinking behaviors. Additionally, using false IDs seems to perpetuate this behavior in two ways: Heavy drinkers tend to be more likely to obtain and use a false ID, and having a false ID contributes to how much and how often a student can consume alcohol. These two factors set young people up for a greater risk of developing AUDs, the study authors said.

"We believe false ID use contributes to high-risk drinking patterns because it increases the accessibility of alcohol and makes it easier for students to drink more frequently," wrote Amelia M. Arria, study author and associate professor of behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

The college environment

Arria's study found some alarming statistics about college campus drinking patterns for underage students – 66 percent of the study sample (1,015 students) used false IDs, and use of the IDs was linked to greater frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption. The use of false IDs also predicted increases in AUD risk over time, even though it didn't link AUDs to fake IDs directly.

Beyond college campuses, Arria said it's difficult to know whether or not findings would be similar among non-students of the same age.

"It seems likely that the factors that predict false ID use might be similar regardless of college attendance," Arria said. "Future research can help confirm whether our findings could be applied to non-college-attending youth and to evaluate whether or not interventions to reduce false ID use is effective for both students and non-students."

As is the case for many alcohol-related problems among youth, parental awareness and involvement is paramount, Arria concluded.

"Both parental monitoring and communication have been shown to buffer against problem drinking outcomes in young adults, and this is another area where parents might be encouraged to engage in these practices."

Source: Science Daily

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