Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Use and its Relationship to Criminal Activity

A new study to be published in the March 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows a significant relationship between adolescent criminal activity and drug and alcohol use. Previous studies have documented how alcohol and drug use is related to adult crime but there have been few studies that have examined the relationship between adolescent crime and use of drugs or alcohol. A strong relationship for both genders was found when it comes to adolescent drug and alcohol use as it relates to criminal activity including criminal victimization as well as the commission of crimes.

The study, conducted by the University of Miami asked the following questions:
• Does alcohol use have different effects on being a victim or being a perpetrator of a crime?
• Is the likelihood of committing a property crime for drinkers relative to non drinkers greater than that of being involved in other types of crime?
• How do these relationships differ for males and females?
• Are frequent binge drinkers more likely to be involved in criminal activity compared to occasional drinkers or abstainers?

Longitudinal data waves from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were used to study alcohol use patterns and criminal activity from adolescence to young adulthood. The study found that more frequent alcohol use is positively correlated with greater probability of committing crimes and being victims of crimes. This was true for both genders.

This study is significant for several reasons. First, adolescents who commit crimes are more likely to commit crimes as adults. While adolescents commit less serious crimes, it is probable that seriousness of crimes can escalate into more serious crimes as adults. Second, this study shows that alcohol consumption among adolescents is a significant risk factor in prediction of criminal activity and should be viewed as such rather than as a normal part of adolescent behavior. While it is true that not all adolescents who use alcohol are perpetrators of crimes, educators, parents and others who influence and treat adolescents need to be aware of the greater risk associated with drinking.


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