Teens Who Use Fake IDs on Slippery Slope to Alcoholism

Posted on November 19th, 2013
Posted in Alcohol Abuse

False IDs, also known as fake IDs, are falsified identification documents designed to misrepresent a person’s age or other characteristics. Underage individuals sometimes use these IDs to circumvent minimum drinking-age laws. According to the results of a study published in October 2013 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, use of fake IDs by underage college students can help predict the eventual onset of alcohol use disorder, a condition that includes both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (alcoholism).

Drinking-Age Laws

In the U.S., all 50 states and the District of Columbia maintain a minimum legal drinking age of 21. While not strictly required to do so, any jurisdiction that drops its minimum age below this barrier will lose federal funding for the upkeep of major highways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a number of health-related reasons for establishing 21 as the earliest legal age for alcohol consumption. For example, younger people who drink commonly participate in patterns of alcohol intake that present a significant danger to both the individual and to the general public. Dangerous patterns of alcohol intake established during adolescence or late adolescence can also easily contribute to the continuation of dangerous drinking during adulthood. In addition, prevention of underage alcohol consumption also tends to reduce the overall level of alcohol intake in young adults who are legally old enough to drink.

Alcohol Use Disorder Basics

Alcohol use disorder is the official term the American Psychiatric Association (APA) uses to identify a pattern of problematic alcohol consumption that disrupts an individual’s ability to maintain a fruitful daily routine or substantially degrades an individual’s ability to maintain his or her mental equilibrium. Some people with the disorder abuse alcohol; this means that they don’t have a physical dependence on alcohol’s presence, but still engage in alcohol-fueled behaviors that significantly damage their lives. Other people with the disorder are alcoholics who have a physical dependence on alcohol, experience repeated or ongoing urges to consume alcohol and engage in roughly the same sorts of alcohol-fueled behaviors found among alcohol abusers. Because of the degree of overlap between alcohol abuse and alcoholism, the APA combines both of these issues under the alcohol use disorder heading. Depending on an affected person’s level of alcohol-related life disruption, he or she may receive a diagnosis for a mild to severe form of the disorder.

Impact of False ID Use

In the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers from the University of Maryland and the Treatment Research Institute examined the underage drinking histories of 1,015 people enrolled in college in order to determine whether the use of a false ID contributes to the risks for the eventual onset of alcohol use disorder. Indicators of such a contribution included an increase in the amount of alcohol consumed by the study participants and an increase in the frequency of regular alcohol consumption. The researchers used a detailed statistical analysis to separate out other potential factors that can increase a college student’s amount or frequency of alcohol intake, including such things as personal psychological history, demographic background, parental influence and substance use patterns established in high school.

The researchers found that roughly 66 percent of the students enrolled in the study used a fake ID. They also found that, when all other factors were taken into account, the use of a fake ID was linked with both an increase in the average underage drinker’s level of alcohol intake and frequency of alcohol intake. The researchers did not conclude that false ID use leads directly to an increased chance of developing alcohol use disorder. However, since the use of fake identification contributes to a hike in drinking frequency and alcohol consumption levels, it functions as an indirect or secondary risk for the disorder’s onset.

Significance and Considerations

The authors of the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research believe they are the first researchers to identify the use of a false ID as a contributing factor for alcohol use disorder. However, they also note the need for further research to confirm their conclusions. If those conclusions are ultimately confirmed, public health and law enforcement officials will have a clearly increased incentive to firmly apply the current statutes against fake ID use.

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