Among the speakers at a recent national conference
on underage drinking prevention was college student and NIH summer 2006 intern Victoria Wright, whose account of her research at NIAAA offered a picture to the audience of the varieties of data that can inform policy and prevention efforts aimed at reducing underage drinking.
The annual National Leadership Conference is cosponsored by the Department of Justice and the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association.
This year’s conference sought to highlight proven strategies for community groups and law enforcement to work together to reduce youth access to alcohol.
Wright’s presentation offered an overview of the areas of research she had investigated over a summer working with NIAAA’s Linda Chezem.
A long-time judge in Indiana, Chezem came to NIAAA in 2003 under a temporary appointment.
She was interested in how research—particularly
on underage drinking—can contribute to the appropriate adjudication of court cases. Her initial goal for Wright was to help the intern explore how NIAAA research was relevant to policy. According to Chezem, Wright “really took to it,” learning not only basic legal research, but also how to access research on alcohol and apply it to different legal situations.
Wright covered a lot of territory during her time at NIAAA, surveying, for example, law schools with substance abuse-related courses; underage drinking laws, and exceptions, by state; state laws regarding fetal alcohol syndrome; penalties for underage drinking and the impact of expungement
of charges against juvenile offenders; custody
cases in which alcohol is involved; and the prevalence of court orders relating to Antabuse, a drug used in alcoholism treatment. Wright found that research on adolescent drinking was a good example of how studies of alcohol and its effects provide a context for the law, “especially,” she said, “in light of the studies coming out on the harmful effects of alcohol on adolescents, including
increased risk of alcohol use disorders and alcoholism later in life.”
According to Chezem, the purpose of Wright’s presentation was to help raise awareness among people working on alcohol-related policy and law that there is research relevant to these issues. Wright said her experience at NIAAA “will be a stepping stone in my future studies.” She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and continue doing research.