Impulsive Drinking Behavior Decreases Most Dramatically During Young-Adult Years

Posted under Science & Research on June 8, 2010

We often think of young people as the big drinkers: college students overindulging at frat parties or the recently 21 cheered on as they guzzle down drinks legally for the first time. But recent research indicates that on the whole those who are in the age range of 18-25 show the greatest decrease in impulsive drinking behavior and alcohol consumption.

The results of the study, which was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, will be published next month in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

This results indicate that a good number of young people naturally grow out of the impulsive behaviors associated with youth, while others do not. Those who do not tend to participate in risky behaviors that draw the most attention; hence the belief that this age group is increasing it’s risky, impulsive behaviors rather than moderating those behaviors.

The importance of these findings relates to the common belief that personality does not change over time. The evidence found here indicates that some people do indeed dramatically change their behavior when it comes to impulsivity. You might say that some simply “grow out of it.”

This study is interesting to those in the addiction treatment field because people in treatment will often say they drank just like their friends when they were younger, but at some point their friends started to moderate their drinking while they continued to party hard.

What might lead some to moderate their drinking while others continue to abuse substances? There are many opinions on the subject, not all supported by research. However, it is likely a combination of familial and environmental influences, biology, and psychological make up.

It does seem, however, that there is a point at which the paths diverge: some moderate their drinking and reduce impulsive, risky behaviors while others go on to abuse substances for years or decades. That second group is likely most at risk for addiction.


Developmental Trajectories of Impulsivity and Their Associations with Alcohol Use and Related Outcomes during Emerging and Young Adulthood I. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, August 2010