Alcohol candy appeals to young drinkers

By Coria Bowen

Alcohol candy has become a new trend among youth.

Young drinkers have started to disguise the presence of alcohol by soaking candy, such as gummy worms and gummy bears, in alcohol to get drunk.

“I think it is surprising and a little concerning,” said Christina Boelter, director of UK’s Translating Research to Youth through Information Technology program.

Boelter works with middle school children of minority and low-income backgrounds through the program, which is called TRY-IT!, science curriculum.

“In class we have a lesson where we talk about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain,” Boelter said. “We do activities on their ability to function under the influence.”

Boelter said hearing about this new trend makes her particularly worried about the kids she works with.

“Most of the kids who have been in our program are now in high school, and I am sure that some of them probably have heard of this,” Boelter said.

Drew Smith, director of the Office of Substance Education and Responsibility, said he can see this trend being a problem with kids in elementary school all the way up to college adults.

Smith hopes to inform people about the risks that go along with its design.

“It took everybody by surprise in the knowledge community I’m involved with,” Smith said.

“My concern is that bringing attention will encourage more than anything else.”

Smith said that if this trend has not already made it to UK, he eventually thinks it will.

“Honestly, this is going to be a concern at events that UK hosts,” Smith said. “Are we not going to let people bring gummy bears?”

Aaron Martin, a political science senior, said he is not surprised by the gummy bear trend.

“It makes sense because in my high school I’ve known kids that would try to beat the system,” Martin said.

Martin said that younger people may be influenced by those who are older than them to take part in this trend.

“With something like this, it’s easy for kids to over do it and not really think about the repercussions,” Martin said.

Martin meets many freshmen through UK’s Christian Student Fellowship events and would urge them to think carefully about every choice they make.

“With freshmen, I would tell them that this is the start of the next chapter of their life and it’s easy to want to fit in,” Martin said. “With a fresh start, would this be the wisest decision you could make?”

Smith said this trend causes many issues.

“It takes a lot of thought to come up with something like this,” he said. “This could potentially be pretty dangerous.”

Smith said 75 percent of all incoming freshmen drink when they come to college and student retention is heavily influenced by the consumption of alcohol. He warns of the dangers of alcohol gummies.

“Because (gummy bears) taste good, people will eat more of them,” Smith said. “There is no trigger to stop.”

When he talks to people about alcohol, Smith wants them to know that it is a drug, and has chemical effects on the body.

“You will not take a drug unless you know the instructions: it’s use and how much to take,” Smith said. “There are no instructions to alcohol.”

He stressed the importance of knowing alcohol serving sizes. “If you eat these gummy bears, you won’t know how much of the substance you are putting into your body,” Smith said. “That’s where the danger lies.”

Boelter said she feels close enough with the students she works with to give them input about risks of alcohol gummies.

“What is it saying that our teens are spending time to come up with creative ways to bring alcohol into the school?” Boelter said. “Maybe that is saying something about a bigger problem we have in our families.”

Boelter said it is important for families to communicate.

“Providing encouragement to help a child feel confident about who they are and not giving in to the pressure is important,” she said.