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Underage Youth Get Alcohol from Social Sources

One of the first studies of social sources of alcohol has found that a high percentage of young males were willing to purchase alcohol for underage youth .Many high school students consume alcohol both regularly and heavily. Most of them obtain alcohol from social sources of alcohol, individuals who illegally provide alcohol to youth, as opposed to commercial sources.

Many types of social sources of alcohol are used by underage youth, including parents, parents of friends, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, siblings, and even strangers approached outside of alcohol establishments, said Traci L. Toomey, associate professor at the University of Minnesota and corresponding author for the study.

This can occur in a variety of settings, including private residences, at parties, in public settings, at sporting events, and community events. Yet what may seem innocuous can lead to many problems, including traffic crashes, assaults, sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancies.

Although they drink less frequently, added Joel Grube, director and senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center, youth are more likely than adults to drink heavily and to the point of intoxication. Overall, it has been estimated that the costs of underage drinking in the U.S. are as much as 61.9 billion dollars annually in medical costs, lost life years, and lost productivity.

Little research has addressed the social provision of alcohol, added Toomey. One of the challenges is that there are several types of social sources. Each needs to be addressed so that we can begin to identify effective interventions.

For this study, we examined shoulder tapping, where an underage person approaches a stranger outside of an alcohol establishment and asks this person to purchase alcohol for him or her. We had heard that this was a popular strategy in some communities, but no systematic research had been conducted.

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