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Music Can Lead To Teen Binge Drinking, Here's How You Can Stop It

Teen binge drinking linked to alcohol brand references in music

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the Norris Cotton Cancer Center in New Hampshire have found a link between teen binge drinking and the recognition of alcohol brand names in music.

The researchers surveyed 2,500 young people between the ages of 15 and 23, and 59 percent reported that they have had a “complete alcoholic drink,” which was defined in the study as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Eighteen percent of the participants reported binge drinking at least monthly. Thirty-seven percent of the survey participants reported alcohol-related problems, such as suffering injuries while drinking.

The researchers also gave the participants the names of songs that included references to alcohol, and asked whether they liked or owned the songs. The researchers then asked if they could remember what brand of alcohol was mentioned in the lyrics. The study found that the participants who could remember the alcohol brands mentioned were twice as likely to drink and more prone to binge drinking.

"Every year, the average adolescent is exposed to about 3,000 references to alcohol brands while listening to music," lead author Dr. Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Program for Research on Media and Health at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said. "It is important that we understand the impact of these references to alcohol brands in an age group that can be negatively impacted by alcohol consumption."

Primack added that the study found the association between recalling alcohol brands mentioned in songs and alcohol drinking in adolescents was “as strong as the influence of parental and peer drinking, and an adolescent's tendency toward sensation-seeking.”

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Talk to your teen about drinking

Talking to your teen about drinking can be uncomfortable, but it is important to be calm and relaxed as opposed to confrontational. Ask what they know about alcohol, and why they think teens drink. Let them speak uninterrupted, and then answer any questions they may have, as well as give the facts about alcohol and the dangers of drinking. You don’t have to cover everything at once, but establish the lines of communication early so your teen knows they can talk to you if and when they have questions about alcohol and drinking.

Monitor what your teen is listening to

While you can’t be with your teen 24/7, take note of what they are listening to, and then discuss the references to alcohol and how music can often be a source of advertising, whether it is paid for by the alcohol company or not.

“In the case of alcohol, it may be valuable to help them understand how alcohol-brand references in music may manipulate their thoughts and emotions to sell them a product,” Primack said.

Recognize warning signs of drinking

If you suspect your teen might be drinking, there are warning signs you should look out for, especially if the signs occur at the same time. These include, but are not limited to: school problems such as poor attendance or low grades, having a sloppy appearance, mood changes, irritability, poor concentration and low energy, and slurred speech.

If you believe your teen is drinking, they might deny it or become defensive. Do not become emotional or combative, but let them know that you are there to listen and help them through whatever they may be feeling that made them want to drink in the first place. If the problem is serious, you may want to look into programs in your city that deal with teen drinking.

[Photo credit: 2fs / Flickr]