Underage drinkers like the strong stuff. A new study found that teenagers are drinking in larger quantities than adults, and when they do, they're indulging in more hard liquor than other drinks like beer and wine.
The study found that about half of all underage binge drinkers in the United States drink vodka. Researchers asked participants about their drinking habits over the past 30 days in a survey. They also assessed for binge drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks in a row for males and four or more drinks in a row for females.
"Each year, approximately 4,300 young people under 21 die as a result of alcohol use, and underage drinking costs an estimated $24.6 billion," said co-author of the study David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, according to HealthDay.
All respondents were asked about their drinking habits when it came to about 900 brands of alcohol comprising 16 different categories of alcoholic beverages. The surveys concluded that participants drank hard liquor or spirits in 44 percent of binge-drinking incidents. Vodka was used 27 percent of the time, and made up about 23 percent of all binge incidents.
Other alcohols popularly consumed in the survey included Bud Light, Jack Daniel's whiskeys, Smirnoff malt beverages, and Coors Light. Researchers found only one-third of all binge drinking episodes involved drinking beer. The study also showed that 67 percent of youth drinkers had been part of a binge drinking episode — a concerning result for the researchers. "Identifying the types of alcohol and specific brands youth are choosing when they binge drink is important for the development of public health interventions designed to curtail this dangerous public health problem,"Jernigan said in a press release, according to HealthDay.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 5,000 underage drinkers die from alcohol-related tragedies every year. "Binge drinking accounts for most of the alcohol consumed by youth in the U.S., and is associated with a host of negative consequences, including drunk driving, sexual assaults, and suicide," said study lead author Dr. Timothy Naimi, an associate professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, according to HealthDay.
Adolescents and young adults who drink alcohol are also more likely to be a victim or perpetrator of sexual violence. The Institute notes that binge drinkers tend to experience lack of coordination, poorer performance in school, slurred speech; and they may also change their circles of friends, and smell like alcohol.
Source: Naimi T, Siegel M, DeJong W, O'Doherty C, Jernigan D. Beverage- and brand-specific binge alcohol consumption among underage youth in the US. Journal of Substance Use. 2014.