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Lau-Barraco Discusses Her Alcohol Abuse Research on HearSay

Cathy Lau-Barraco, assistant professor of psychology at Old Dominion University, was a guest commentator for a segment of the "HearSay with Cathy Lewis" radio program, Wednesday, Sept. 1, exploring the pros and cons of lowering the drinking age to 18.

The news program on WHRV public broadcasting also featured commentary from representatives of the Amethyst Initiative, an organization of university administrators that supports open debate about lowering the drinking age, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which favors leaving the drinking age as it is at 21.

Lau-Barraco, a clinical psychologist who joined the ODU faculty a year ago, said on the show that she felt the question of how to address the harm done by young people's drinking was more relevant than the question about the drinking age.

The perspective she brings is from a clinical point of view, she said, adding that what concerns her is that surveys show 40 percent of people in the 18-25 age group have engaged in heavy drinking at least once in the past 30 days. She said this drinking leads to DUI, risky sexual behavior, property abuse and assaults.

The young researcher recently received a five-year, $750,000 Mentored Research Scientist Development Award that will advance her studies of alcohol abuse by young people. The so-called K01 award, which also will fund numerous career training and development opportunities for Lau-Barraco, is from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This funding will help her broaden her research, which primarily in the past has focused on college students. A major thrust of the new grant is to help nonstudent emerging adults. This category of young people, she believes, may face greater severity of substance abuse problems than college students.

Her research has shown that college students drink for social reasons and often to cope with some sort of pressure, Lau-Barraco said on the radio program. Her research is looking at ways to change cultural reasons for the abuse of alcohol by the young, as well as to develop tailored intervention programs for young people who have drinking problems.

This article was posted on: September 5, 2010

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