PRC Resources

Underage Drinking

Emerging Adults' Substance Use And Risky Behaviors In Club Settings
Story of Discovery


Among young people in late adolescence and early adulthood, social activities that are associated with drug and heavy alcohol use can result in serious risks, such as traffic crashes, assaults, overdoses, and unwanted or unplanned sexual activity. The nature of these social activities evolves and changes. In recent years, "raves" have been replaced by more organized electronic music and dancing events in commercial venues like bars and clubs. The mixing of music, dance, and drugs is recognized as part of the popular culture for young people.

Better understanding of drug use at these events and the risky situations that result from this drug use can be useful for the development of prevention and intervention strategies.


The Current Study

This study is a first step in a larger research effort and was designed to answer some key questions about electronic music dance events:
  • To what extent did patrons arrive at the events already under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol?
  • To what extent do patrons consume drugs and/or alcohol at the event?
  • What types of drugs do patrons consume before or at these events?
  • What were the risky behaviors and experiences common at these events?

Two-hundred-forty attendees at electronic music and dance events were interviewed as they entered the events, which took place in different venues on the East and West Coasts. At exit, 219 of these attendees were interviewed again.

As they entered, attendees were administered tests (breath tests for alcohol, oral tests for drugs) to determine drug and alcohol use. They also completed a short interview. All data were collected without identifying information to encourage participation. These same tests were administered as the attendees exited the event. They were also asked about their experiences at the event, including experiences such as assaults.



Alcohol was the most commonly used drug: 59% were positive for alcohol at entrance and 60% at exit. Marijuana use was the second most common drug at entrance, with a third of attendees positive for use. Only 15% of attendees tested positive for marijuana when they exited the event. Stimulants (including Ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines) were the third most common drug category at entrance (18% positive) however the use of stimulants increased during the events and 23% left with a positive marker of stimulant use.

Thirty-six percent of the sample interviewed at exit intended to drive. Nearly two thirds (62%) of the drivers had consumed drugs, a quarter of the drivers (26%) were alcohol impaired (alcohol above .05%, but below the legal limit of .08%), and one tenth (10.4%) were drunk (above the legal limit).


The Take-Home Message

Electronic music dance events attract young people who have been using alcohol and other drugs and can be a setting where drugs and alcohol are used. This poses serious risks for people attending these events - especially because many of them drive while impaired. Prevention strategies may be developed to reduce these risks.


The Reference

JOURNAL OF DRUG ISSUES 0022-0426/05/02 357-378