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Does Blasting Music Lead to Addiction?

Young people who listen to very loud music are likelier to turn to substances or risky sex, a study suggests.

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By Chrisanne Grise

05/21/12

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Loud music isn't just bad for your hearing, a new study suggests—young people who listen to it regularly are more likely to smoke marijuna, binge drink and have unprotected sex. Researchers at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in the Netherlands surveyed 944 students aged 15-25. Participants that were exposed to one hour per day or more of music at 89 decibels—about as loud as a lawnmower—were ruled as being in the "risky" category. The one-third of the students who regularly listened to loud music on MP3 players were twice as likely to have used pot in the last month compared to the non-risky listeners. Those who were frequently exposed to music at clubs and concerts, on the other hand—close to half of the participants—were six times more likely to binge drink and twice as likely to have sex without a condom. "I think they've really shown that sex and drugs go with rock and roll," says Dr. Sharon Levy, head of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children's Hospital, who wasn't involved in the study. But this doesn't mean parents should panic about their kids' music habits; there's no proof that one type of "risky" behavior leads to the other. "It's really an important reminder that these risk behaviors, they really go together," says Levy. But, "I don't think that we're at the point that we should say, 'Boy, you should really cut down MP3 player use'—we should because of the hearing loss, but I don't think there's any evidence that's going to affect other risky behaviors at this point."

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