25 August 2020 In Drinking Patterns

BACKGROUND: The consumption of addictive substances is common in adolescence and raises concerns about future addiction. We investigated addictive substance consumption among young people to inform the design of drug intervention programmes.

METHODS: Participants were a population-based sample of 14- to 24-year-olds from Paredes, northern Portugal. A self-report questionnaire measured social and health variables, including tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug consumption. Results Data were analysed for 731 valid responses. Participants who had drunk alcohol did so first at 14.7 years (mean); 15.3% (95% confidence intervals [CI]: 12.9-18.1) drank alcohol regularly (more than 1/week, adjusted for age and sex) (95% CI: 12.9-18.1). Participants who had smoked tobacco did so first at 14.8 years (mean); 16.6% (95% CI: 14.0-19.5) were regular smokers. Illicit drug consumption was reported by 16.7% of participants (95% CI: 14.2-19.6) and 10.4% consumed drugs regularly.

CONCLUSION: We found a high prevalence of addictive substance consumption, particularly alcohol. As cultural attitudes likely influence alcohol consumption, a multigenerational approach is needed to address adolescent consumption. Participants' main sources of drug information were family members. Strategies are needed to promote drug literacy in parents and other relatives to change adolescents' culturally acquired habits of addictive substance consumption.

Recognizing there have been few methodologically rigorous cross-national studies of youth alcohol and drug behaviour, state student samples were compared in Australia and the USA. Sampling methods were matched to recruit two independent, state-representative, cross-sectional samples of students in Grades 5, 7 and 9 in Washington State, USA, (n = 2866) and Victoria, Australia (n = 2864) in 2002. Of Washington students in Grade 5 (age 11), 10.3% (95% CI 7.2-14.7) of boys and 5.2% (95% CI 3.4-7.9) of girls reported alcohol use in the past year. Prevalence rates were markedly higher in Victoria (34.2%, 95% CI 28.8-40.1 boys; 21.0%, 95% CI 17.1-25.5 girls). Relative to Washington, the students in Victoria demonstrated a two to three times increased likelihood of reporting substance use (either alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use), and by Grade 9, experiences of loss-of-control of alcohol use, binge drinking (frequent episodes of five or more alcoholic drinks), and injuries related to alcohol were two to four times higher. The high rates of early age alcohol use in Victoria were associated with frequent, heavy and harmful alcohol use and higher overall exposure to alcohol or other drug use. These findings reveal considerable variation in international rates of both adolescent alcohol misuse and co-occurring drug use and suggest the need for cross-national research to identify policies and practices that contribute to the lower rate of adolescent alcohol and drug use observed in the USA in this study.


The authors have taken reasonable care in ensuring the accuracy of the information herein at the time of publication and are not responsible for any errors or omissions. Read more on our disclaimer and Privacy Policy.