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MU study ties heavy drinking to fake IDs

A new study from University of Missouri-Columbia researchers confirms what many college students apparently already know: Fake IDs and heavy drinking go hand in hand.

A scientific survey of 3,720 MU students shows that the heavy drinkers on campus pursue fake IDs and, conversely, students who get fake IDs soon amplify their drinking.

"Underage drinking is a problem nationwide," said Julia Martinez, an MU doctoral student and the studyís lead researcher. "One of the major issues is: ĎHow are underage kids getting alcohol?í And fake IDs are one of the ways they can do it."

The research followed students during their freshman and sophomore years, when most students are younger than 21. It found that although 12.5 percent of students came to MU with fake IDs, by the end of their second year, 32.2 percent had the IDs in their possession.

So where are all these fakes coming from? "There are a bunch of ways you can get a fake ID," Martinez said.

On the Internet, students can find ways to make their own fraudulent IDs. Some simply choose to borrow IDs from older relatives or friends who have similar-looking faces. Others, Martinez said, can simply buy fakes from numerous Web sites.

With a good fake ID in hand, underage students gain access to bars and the ability to buy alcohol at stores. That can lead to heavy drinking, putting students at risk for traffic injuries, death, property damage, assault and risky sexual behavior.

"Heavy drinking in younger people is linked to a lot of dangerous, problematic things," Martinez said. "So if people have further access to alcohol and that predicts heavy drinking, as our study shows, that implies that there might be more dangers there."

Missouri law clearly prohibits manufacturing or using fake IDs. Both activities are misdemeanors. Those who produce fake IDs can be fined as much as $1,000 and spend as long as a year in prison.

Over the past three years, the Missouriís Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control arrested or issued summonses to 857 people statewide who allegedly tried to pass fake IDs. During that time, 15 people were caught for allegedly making fraudulent official identification cards.

The new study shows that fake ID ownership is especially prevalent in the Greek community. More than 50 percent of Greek students, men and women, have fake IDs by the time they are sophomores.

The study didnít investigate why this is the case, but Martinez surmised that "there might be some sort of community network" among Greeks or "increased networking of just how to access alcohol."

Julie Drury, MUís coordinator for Greek Life, said her department works with MUís Wellness Resource Center to make sure students in fraternities and sororities are aware of the consequences of having fake IDs.

"We work to educate them not only about fake IDs and the laws behind that and where that can lead but also about responsible and safe drinking behaviors," she said.

But with more than half of the students still deciding to use fake IDs, Drury said it was possible the university should try do more.

The research into fake IDs is based on data collected as part of a large prospective study of college student drinking. The parent study, funded by a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, was designed to characterize the predictors, course and consequences of drinking over the course of a college career, said Kenneth Sher, curatorsí professor of psychological sciences.

Sher said the study was ancillary and labeled the cost of the fake ID study as "essentially a freebie."


Reach Jacob Luecke at (573) 815-1713 or
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