Getting Boozy in Books: Substance Use in Adolescent Literature


Substance, Adolescent literature, alcohol in literature, alcohol


Media effects research provides evidence for a link between adolescent exposure to media portrayals of substance use and usage. Exposure to media content that glamorizes and normalizes substance use carries potential public health risks. Though substance use has been examined in other media, such as film, television, and magazines, no research to date examines usage portrayals in adolescent novels. Given that adolescents do read, and given the potential impact of content on adolescent attitudes and behavior, this study provides a detailed analysis of the frequency and nature of substance use in the understudied area of novels. Substance use was examined in 40 best-selling adolescent novels on the New York Times Best Sellers list (time span June–July 2008). Substance use varied widely. Of the various types of substances, alcohol portrayals were most common. Almost all substance use was portrayed as having no consequences. Alcohol use was portrayed in similar frequencies in books aimed at younger, middle, and older adolescents, though illegal drug use was more likely to be found in books aimed at older ages. Our results suggest that the manner in which substance use is generally portrayed may encourage use among adolescents. Researchers, parents, and adolescents are encouraged to examine books as one potentially overlooked area of influence.

Original Publication Citation

Coyne, S. M., Callister, M., & *Phillips, J. (2011). Getting boozy in books: Substance use in adolescent literature. Health Communication, 26, 512-515.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Journal of Health Communication




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor