One of the more active research areas in Emerging Adulthood is its relation to alcohol and other substance use. As Arnett noted in his 2000 American Psychologist article, rates of binge drinking and other risky behaviors peak within EA.
According to more recent U.S. government surveys, heavy drinking (based on a measure of consuming five or more drinks per drinking occasion) tends to be more prevalent in 18-25 year-olds than in other age groups.
Risk behavior may be linked to identity exploration, as "one reflection of the desire to obtain a wide range of experiences before settling down into the roles and responsibilities of adult life" (Arnett, 2000, p. 475).
With particular reference to higher education, Borsari and Carey (2001, Journal of Substance Abuse) contend that, "...many [students] view college as a place to drink excessively, in a time-limited fashion, before assuming the responsibilities of aduthood" (p. 392).
Finally, an article in a 2004 issue of the National Institute on Drug Abuse newsletter NIDA Notes discusses Emerging Adulthood and substance use during this period.
For further reading, see...
Chassin, L., Pitts, S.C., & Prost, J. (2002). Binge drinking trajectories from adolescence to emerging adulthood in a high-risk sample: Predictors and substance abuse outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70, 67-78 (abstract).
White, H.R., & Jackson, K. (2004/2005). Social and psychological influences on emerging adult drinking behavior. Alcohol Research and Health, 28, 182-190 (full-text PDF).