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10-07 Preventing teens from DUI and being labeled an alcoholic

For many teenagers, obtaining a driver’s license also comes with a fair amount of responsibility. When factoring in the possibility of alcohol use among adolescents, proper guidance and self-control need to be ingrained before they start driving under the influence (DUI) and become stigmatized as an alcoholic early in life.

Predictive factors for DUI

In the 2006 study, “Predicting underage drinking and driving behaviors,” by Joel W. Grube from the Prevention Research Center in California and Robert B. Voas from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland surveyed 706 drivers between the ages of 16 and 20. The authors found that instances of DUI were influenced by peer pressure and social norms. Also, the research showed that men, Europeans, Latinos, those with less of an education, more frequent drivers and those who thought more positively toward driving under the influence had a strong relationship with heavy drinking and risky driving.

Also in the 1994 publication, “Social influences on adolescent driving under the influence in a sample of high school students,” scholar David P. MacKinnon, Ph.D., of Arizona State University and his fellow colleagues examined the correlations between cases of DUI and a sample of 2,037 10th and 12th graders. The results showed that although reports of driving while intoxicated were low at 3 percent, 31 percent of teens said that they were with someone who was committing the act in the last month. Other demographic data included how adolescent men were more likely to commit DUI, but women were more likely to be a passenger of someone committing DUI. Strong predictors of the behavior included suspension from school, lower grades, misinformed beliefs about alcohol use and self-efficacy.

DUI punishments and prevention

According to Attorney Richard Stim, a legal consultant for, most states require a mandatory drug and alcohol evaluation by a certified treatment agency for those convicted of a DUI. In terms of the test’s outcomes, “You will either be deemed to be chemically dependent upon drugs or alcohol, to be suffering from drug or alcohol abuse or the potential for abuse, or it will be found that there is insufficient evidence to support a finding that you have any problem at all with drugs or alcohol.”

To help teens avoid such a stigmatizing label, John D. Clapp, Ph.D., and other researchers from San Diego State University and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland recruited 4,832 college students to participate in a series of DUI prevention and intervention strategies. The 2005 study, “Reducing DUI among US college students: results of an environmental prevention trial,” exposed the student sample to a social media campaign, a media advocacy campaign and heightened DUI patrols and checkpoints. Results showed that schools given these interventions showed a distinct drop in self-reported DUIs in the past year.

The penalties are much steeper for adolescents caught intoxicated behind the wheel. For many new teen drivers, being labeled as an alcoholic can set their life paths down a slippery slope of pain and struggle. If you or your child is struggling with substance abuse, Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego treats teenagers struggling with substance abuse and other coexisting conditions. Call to speak with a professional today.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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