Fact Sheet: Alcohol Is A Drug

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                                               Center for Substance Abuse Prevention 1997

In April 1998, the U.S. House Speaker's Task Force for a Drug-Free America launched an initiative to "win the war on drugs" by 2002.  The task force will direct a three-front attack -- deter demand, stop supply, and increase accountability -- and introduce a minimum of two bills each week for at least eight weeks. 

CSPI and other organizations remind the task force that alcohol is a drug too.  And for those under age-21, alcohol is an illicit drug.

Kids’ favorite and most devastating drug is the alcohol in beer. It’s legal for adults and heavily advertised. TV ads often reach millions of teens and children with messages that appeal to their humor, sense of fantasy, or identification with sports and glamorous, young-adult activities.

  • An alarming number of young people engage in harmful binge drinking (five or more drinks at one sitting) -- 15% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders, and over 31% of 12th graders.1
  • Alcohol is a factor in the three leading causes of deaths among 15-24 year olds: unintentional injuries, homicides, and suicides.2
  • 21% of young drivers 15-20 years of age who were killed in automobile crashes were intoxicated at the time of the incident.3
  • Research suggests that alcohol use may lead to sexual aggression on college campuses. One study noted that 67% of male sexual aggressors, and 50% of female victims, had been drinking at the time the victimization occurred.4
  • College students--many of whom are minors-- who engage in binge drinking are seven to ten times more likely to have unplanned and unprotected sex, damage property, get into trouble with authorities, or get injured.5
  • Adolescent alcohol abusers show elevations in liver enzymes, an earlier indicator of liver damage.6
  • Adolescent alcohol use is associated with earlier initiation of sexual activity, more frequent sexual activity, and less frequent condom use.7
  • The younger the age of drinking onset, the greater the chance that an individual at some point in life will develop a clinically defined alcohol disorder.8

The High Cost of Promoting Drug Use

  • Expenditures for beer advertising totaled over 726 million in 1997. Television was the most widely used medium, with over 633 million spent on advertisements.9
  • Since 1996, hard liquor has been advertised on TV and radio. Broadcast advertising spending nearly tripled between 1996 and 1997.10
  • Mega-brewer Anheuser-Busch spent $1.3 million for each 30-second commercial during the 1998 Super Bowl11, and plans to spend even more in 1999 despite the large number of kids who watch the game.

Serious About Preventing Drug Use
Among Kids.

Don't Forget Beer, the King of Drugs,
and other alcoholic-beverages.

Three Measures That Will Reduce Drug Problems:

1. Raise beer taxes.
2. Eliminate youth-oriented alcohol advertising.
3. Include underage drinking in ONDCP’s anti-drug
   media campaign.

1. Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (1998). National Survey Results on Drug Use from the Monitoring the Future Study, 1975-1997. Volume 1: Secondary School Students (p. 126). Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives. (1991). NIH Publication Number (PHS) 91-50212. Washington, DC:U.S. Government Printing Office.

3. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (1998). Young Drivers Traffic Safety Facts 1997.  (NHTSA Fact Sheets - http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/ncsa/factshet.html).

4. Frinter, M. P., & Rubinson, L. (1993). Acquaintance rape: The influence of alcohol, fraternity membership, and sports team membership. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 19(4):272-284.

5. Wechsler, H., Davenport, A., Dowdall, G., Moeykens, B., & Castillo, S. (1994). Health and behavioral consequences of binge drinking in college: A national survey of students at 140 campuses. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272(21):1672-1677.

6. Arria, A. M., Dohey, M. A., Mezzich, A. C., Bukstein, O. G., & Van Thiel, D. H. (1995). Self-reported health problems and physical symptomatology in adolescent alcohol abusers. Journal of Adolescent Health, 16(3):226-231.

7. Cooper, M. L., Peirce, R. S., & Huselid, R. F. (1994). Substance use and sexual risk taking among black adolescentsd and white adolescents. Health Psychology, 13(3):251-262.

8. National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism. (January 14, 1998). Age of drinking onset predicts future alcohol abuse and dependence. NIH News Release.

9. Adams Business Media. (1998). Beer Handbook. New York, NY: Author.

10. Adams Business Media. (1998). Liquor Handbook. New York, NY: Author.

11. Johnson, G. (January 8, 1998). Advertisers and markets are in the lineup for $uper Bowl Sunday. Los Angeles Times, Business and Technology Section.

Updated December 1998