Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study to determine what pre-existing factors present the highest risk for youth developing alcohol dependency. The team examined data from 401 children for their three year-long study. The data was collected from the Michigan Longitudinal Study, a study aimed at identifying risk factors for substance misuse in vulnerable families. The participants were primarily male and 64 percent of the subjects had at least one parent who met the criteria for alcohol dependence. The average age of onset of drinking for the participants was 16. “Fifty-three percent of them had their first drink at the age of 14 or younger,” said the researchers. “By T7 (ages 21-23), 54% of the participants had met DSM-IV alcohol abuse diagnosis with the mean onset age at 17, while 23% had met DSM-IV alcohol dependence diagnosis with the mean onset age at 18.”
The researchers found several common risk factors and symptoms present in the participants. “Over 50% of the participants had experienced AD3 (larger/longer) and AD1 (tolerance) by the age of 23, whereas fewer than 20% had reported AA3 (legal problems), AD2 (withdrawal), and AD6 (activities given up),” said the researchers. They added, “Overall, 76% of the participants had developed at least one AUD symptom during the study period.”
The researchers emphasize the importance of their findings. “The risk of progression to alcohol dependence among male youth was 1.94 times the risk of female youth,” they said. “Among people who did not experience AA4 (social/interpersonal problems) as the first symptom, early onset drinkers tended to carry higher risk (2.26 times) than late onset drinkers.” The team concluded, “This study shows that the youth who experience AA4 (social/interpersonal problems) or AD1 (tolerance) as the first symptom tends to be at high risk for progression into alcohol dependence, conditional on important pre-cursive risk factors including being male, COA (children of alcoholics), an early onset drinker, and higher in delinquent behavior at drinking onset.”
Buu, A., Wang, W., Schroder, S. A., Kalaida, N. L., Puttler, L. I., & Zucker, R. A. (2011, August 15). Developmental Emergence of Alcohol Use Disorder Symptoms and Their Potential as Early Indicators for Progression to Alcohol Dependence in a High Risk Sample: A Longitudinal Study From Childhood to Early Adulthood. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024926
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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