BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Drinking malt liquor -- the cheap, high-alcohol
beverage often marketed to teens -- may put young adults at
increased risk for alcohol problems and use of illicit drugs,
particularly marijuana, according to a new study of malt liquor
drinkers and marijuana use by scientists at the University at
Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA).
"In our study of young adults who regularly drink malt liquor,"
reports lead researcher R. Lorraine Collins, senior research
scientist at RIA, "we found that malt liquor use is significantly
related to reports of alcohol problems, problems specific to the
use of malt liquor and to marijuana use above and beyond typical
alcohol use." Collins also is a research professor in the
Department of Psychology, UB College of Arts and Sciences.
The study consisted of 639 young adults (456 men) of
approximately 23 years of age who regularly consume 40 ounces or
more of malt liquor per week. They were recruited from the
community-at-large, as well as Buffalo Niagara area colleges. The
participants were heavy drinkers, averaging 30 alcoholic drinks --
including 17 malt liquor drinks -- per week.
In addition to malt liquor use, marijuana was the illicit drug
of choice, with 46 percent reporting simultaneous use of malt
liquor and marijuana. Individuals who used malt liquor and
marijuana together smoked 19 marijuana joints, on average, during a
typical week, whereas those who did not use the two together smoked
two marijuana joints, on average, during a typical week. Very few
participants reported regular use of other illicit drugs.
For those individuals who use malt liquor and marijuana
simultaneously, the study showed that they first drank alcohol at a
younger age (between 13 and 14 years) and reported more substance
use (particularly marijuana use) and more alcohol-related problems
than those who did not use both malt liquor and marijuana
Sixty-one percent of the participants reported that they
consumed one to two 40-ounce containers of malt liquor on a typical
drinking occasion. Given malt liquor's higher alcohol content --
alcohol -- this level of intake could translate into 3.5 (one
40-oz. bottle at 6 percent) to 14 (two 40-oz. bottles at 11
percent) standard drinks.
"These results suggest that regular consumption of malt liquor,
beyond that associated with typical alcohol use, may place young
adults at increased risk for substance abuse problems," Collins
says. "Although many of these young people may not yet meet
diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence, there is clearly a need
for prevention strategies targeted to their patterns of drinking
and particularly excessive drinking of malt liquor."
Collins' colleagues on the study were Clara M. Bradizza, RIA
senior research scientist and research assistant professor in the
Department of Psychiatry, UB School of Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences, and Paula C. Vincent, data manager on the RIA
The results were published in a recent issue of the American
Psychological Association journal Psychology of Addictive
The research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism.
The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the
study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the
University at Buffalo since 1999.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive
public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the
State University of New York. UB's more than 27,000 students pursue
their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate,
graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the
University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American