Drinking Alone as a Teen May Foreshadow Future Alcohol Problems. We may be much more likely to subsequently acquire alcohol use disorder (AUD) if we drink alone during adolescence and early adulthood, according to research from Carnegie Mellon University.
Kasey Creswell, associate professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is the study’s lead author. “We were interested in determining whether adolescent solitary drinking would predict alcohol problems in adulthood using large, national samples of adolescents living all across the U.S.,” she told Healthline.
Drinking Alone as a Teen May Foreshadow Future Alcohol Problems. In order to evaluate data from the Monitoring the Future study, an epidemiological investigation of drug and alcohol use among American teenagers followed into adulthood, Creswell collaborated with researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
A total of 4,500 18-year-olds responded to questions about their drinking habits and whether they ever drank by themselves.
According to Creswell, this study is “many times larger” than other studies, and the sample used for analysis is more typical of teenagers living in the United States.
Since we took into account known risk factors in our analysis and still found that solo drinking can predict alcohol issues, she added, “our conclusions are more compelling and unequivocal than those of earlier studies.”
Following the participants for 17 years, information was collected on their alcohol consumption, including how much they drank alone in their early 20s and if they ever developed symptoms of AUD as adults (age 35).
The study found that roughly 25% of teenagers and 40% of young adults reported drinking alone.
Researchers say the findings suggest targeted interventions could be helpful to educate and inform these groups, especially young women, about the risks of solitary drinking to prevent AUD in the future.
“I was surprised by the magnitude of the association between adolescent and young adult solitary drinking and alcohol problems in adulthood,” Creswell said.
Female teens and adolescents are at greatest risk for AUD
Findings showed that adolescents and young adults who reported drinking alone were at greater risk for developing AUD symptoms in adulthood than peers who only drank in social settings.
Creswell and the team controlled for well-established early risk factors for alcohol problems, including binge drinking and frequent drinking.
They found the odds of developing AUD symptoms by age 35 were 35% higher for adolescents who drank alone and 60% higher for young adults who drank alone, compared to social-only drinkers.
However, adolescent females who drank alone appeared to have a higher risk for developing alcohol problems in adulthood.
“Female adolescents who drink alone are at particular risk,” said Creswell. “Which is especially concerning given increasing rates of solitary drinking among U.S. adolescent females.”
Why risk of alcohol use disorder is particularly high among women
“Women are catching up to men in alcohol use disorders,” said Moe Gelbart, PhD, director of the Behavioral Health Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California.
Dr. Gilbert explained that due to having less size and weight than men, as well as other biological differences, much less alcohol is needed for a woman to have alcohol-related problems.
“Potential high risk drinking for a woman is one drink per day, compared to two for a male,” he added. “The biological differences will mean that much less alcohol is needed to reach the same blood alcohol level as a male.”
Erin Goodhart, executive director of core programming for Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania, said alcohol marketing targets women.
“Between the pandemic and the pressures of daily life, we need to find realistic ways to cope and prioritize wellness,” she said. “Women are caught in a perfect storm when it comes to alcohol because we are the target of millions of marketing dollars that peg alcohol as the catch-all solution for our anxiety, stress, and even underlying trauma.”
Goodhart noted that women’s biological makeup and hormones mean they’re “significantly” more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder at a faster rate than men.
What to do if a loved one appears to be abusing alcohol
According to Gelbart, one of the main characteristics of someone with an alcohol use disorder is a denial of the issue, therefore reluctance to get help is usual.
“You need to comprehend alcohol dependence and realize that it’s not only a matter of willpower or choice, but rather a disease that needs care,” he said.
Gelbart advises pointing out particular behaviors and letting them know how you feel and how others close to that person feel rather than engaging in debates or passing judgment on the individual’s activities.
Tell them that you will accept the results of the evaluation if they are conducted by a certified professional with experience in substance abuse.
Gelbart recommends persons who are aware they have an alcohol issue to seek assistance for themselves and learn coping mechanisms by going to Al-Anon sessions.
“You can consult with a specialist for a formal intervention if the condition persists,” he said.
According to recent study, female teenagers are much more at risk of acquiring AUD as adults than are adolescents who drink alone.
According to experts, this is because it takes a lot less alcohol for women to attain a dangerous blood alcohol level.
Additionally, they claim that by prohibiting travel and closing gyms, the epidemic made things far worse by giving individuals fewer opportunities for stress relief.