The use of alcohol among adolescents is a major public health concern. Drinking in young people increases the risks of injury, homicide, suicide, risky sexual behaviour and teenage pregnancy, in addition to a wide range of less severe physical and psychological harms [1,2]. In Europe, it has been evaluated that one in four deaths in young men aged between 15-29 years is related to alcohol . Moreover, exposure of the developing brain to alcohol disrupts cortical development and alters higher executive functions in a manner that promotes continued impulsive behaviour, with heavy alcohol consumption increasing the likelihood of alcohol dependence, the most severe alcohol use disorder [4,5]. Accordingly, individuals who start drinking before the age of 14 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent at some time in their life as compared to those who first consume alcohol at the age of 20 or older [6,7].
Despite its severe consequences, the use of alcohol in adolescents is extremely widespread, and adolescent alcohol dependence is becoming an increasingly common problem . A large study recently carried out, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), conducted by administering a questionnaire to more than 100,000 students from 35 European countries, found that, in Europe, approximately 90% of 15-16 year old students have drunk alcohol at least once in their life, with 50% of these having become intoxicated at least once . According to this study, the alcoholic beverage preferred by 15-16 year old students is beer, followed by spirits, wine, and alcopops .
Alcopops are ready-mixed drinks containing 5-7% alcohol by volume, usually sweet, flavoured, and served in small bottles varying from 200 to 275 ml [10,11]. The sweet taste of alcopops makes them particularly attractive to adolescents, particularly girls [9,11]. In Italy, students start to drink alcoholic beverages earlier than in other European Countries, having their first drink at an average age of 12.2 years, compared to 14.6 years throughout Europe . Reducing alcohol-related harm in young people is a major priority worldwide [13,14]. Several primary prevention programs have been developed to reduce, or at least delay the onset, of adolescent alcohol consumption [15,16]. These programs consist in educational interventions aimed at raising awareness and imparting knowledge and psychological interventions for the purpose of developing peer resistance skills. However, the effects achieved are typically modest or transient .
Several studies have investigated the knowledge of alcoholic content of beverages and alcohol-related harm by different portions of general populations. For example, among health operators, to estimate their ability to translate the amount of alcohol assumed by patients into units of alcohol [18-20], and among adult population, to estimate the perception of alcohol-related risks . The awareness of alcoholic content of beverage has been evaluated also among young people with the aim to investigate their knowledge of the low-risk drinking guidelines [22,23], and perception of risks [24-26]. Interestingly, a study also evaluated the ability of kindergarten children (5 and 6 years old) to correctly indentify alcoholic beverages . All these studies found that the knowledge of the alcoholic content of beverages and alcoholrelated harm appears to be limited. Among the different alcoholic beverages, alcopops may be even more difficult to be identified as alcoholic beverages because they resemble soda or other soft nonalcoholic drinks. Accordingly, it has been reported that a significant rate of teenagers think that alcopops contain less alcohol than beer .
Citation: Agabio R, Mereu A, Contu P, Gessa GL (2013) Unawareness of Alcoholic Content of Alcopops among 13-Year Old Italian Teenagers. J Alcoholism Drug Depend 2:142. doi: 10.4172/2329-6488.1000142