Data are drawn from the IYDS, a gender-balanced, multiethnic, statewide representative sample of 7th grade students in WA and VIC in 2002 (n = 1,958). Data were collected at ages 13-15 and 25 (2014, 87% retention). Early alcohol problems (ages 13-15) included blackouts, violence/fights, trouble at school/home, and being unable to stop drinking. Alcohol misuse at age 25 was measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT).
Rates of early alcohol problems were significantly higher in VIC (44% vs 30% in WA), as were rates of risky or harmful drinking at age 25 (29% vs 17% in WA). About 32% of those who reported early alcohol problems also reported risky or harmful drinking at age 25 (continuity); 18% of those without early alcohol problems reported risky or harmful drinking at age 25 (discontinuity). Factors related to continuity in alcohol problems included maternal education, sex, and age 25 employment. Factors related to discontinuity (no early problems, but later risky/harmful use) included age 25 family conflict and homelessness. Additional analyses will examine other factors that may contribute to discontinuity and test for cross-national differences.
These findings support the benefit of zero tolerance alcohol policies as compared to harm minimization for reducing early alcohol problems and adult alcohol misuse. Implications for interventions and policy aimed at interrupting continuity in alcohol problems and for preventing development of later misuse among youth without problems will be discussed.