“Three sheets to the wind”: Substance use in teen-centered film from 1980 to 2007


Substance use, film, adolescents, social learning, content analysis


The issue of substance use in America is a serious public health concern, and while some substances show downward trends, current levels of adolescent use and abuse are alarming. Film has become a popular form of entertainment among teenagers and provides images from which teens model behaviors and form attitudes. This study examines substance use among adult and teen characters in the top grossing teen-centered films from 1980 to 2007. This content analysis examines the frequency and nature of substance portrayals and the consequences of use. The results show that substance use is largely consequence free and socially approved. No gender differences exist in the percent of users to nonusers. While users and nonusers do not differ in social status, users were portrayed as more attractive than nonusers. A higher percentage of users are Caucasian and adults. The vast majority of characters were not even given the choice to accept or refuse substances, and of those offered, few rejected. Finally, this study provides evidence that in the realm of teen-centered movies, the trend in substance use has been surprisingly downward across the decades.

Original Publication Citation

Callister, M., Coyne, S. M., Robinson, T., Davies, J. J., *Near, C., *Valkenburg, L. (2012). “Three sheets to the wind”: Substance Use in Teen-centered Film from 1980-2007. Addiction, Research, & Theory, 20, 30-41.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Addiction Research and Theory




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor