Pusher, Tiktok or parents: How young people in Sweden get hold of alcohol


Sara Kristensson, Head of Communications, CAN
Published 15 Mar 2023

A recent survey in Sweden reveals how young people would get a hold of alcohol, if they wished to do so. A majority would pursue relatives, a friend, their partner, or a friends sibling over the age of 20. 16 percent of the respondents had ordered alcohol from a pusher at a social media account. Eight out of ten of the participants in the telephone survey answered that they use Snapchat every day.

Social media affects all parts of young people’s lives. In addition to chatting, dating and gaming, also their contact surface with alcohol is affected. One example is how alcohol is presented on social media, and another the illegal advice on how minors can get hold of alcohol.

Through our different surveys, The Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs – CAN – aim to provide more knowledge of the world that young people live in today. In Sweden as well as in the rest of the world the media landscape has changed with tremendous speed. In the survey Who can be trusted?  a thousand young people aged 16 to 18, got to answer questions over the phone about their media habits. They were asked what media they usually use, as well as how often they use them. They also answered questions about alcohol and social media.

Traditional media and social media

Traditional media, meaning television, print-media or online news sites, was used on a weekly basis by  86 percent of the respondents. About half of the young people in the survey said they used traditional media every day.

Almost all of the respondents reported using at least one social media platform every week, and 94 percent do it every day. The social media platform Snapchat is especially popular , as it is being used by nearly nine out of ten of the respondents every week. Eight out of ten claimed to use it every day. Instagram, YouTube and TikTok are also commonly used platforms.

Gender differences

There is a gender difference when it comes to use of  social media platforms Discord, Twitch and Twitter. The survey revealed that these particular platforms are used more than twice as often by  boys.

There is also a gender difference when it comes to trust in the information disseminated through social media. Generally, boys have a significantly higher trust in social media and in the information that is disseminated on the platforms.

How to get hold of alcohol?

Sweden has an age limit of 20 years for purchasing alcohol at the state monopoly, Systembolaget. From the age of 18, one is allowed to order alcohol in a restaurant, or buy low-alcohol (3,5 % vol.) in shops and kiosks.  It´s illegal for a person over 20 to buy alcohol and sell it to a minor. In this article, a person distributing alcohol to a minor is referred to as a pusher or dealer.

Through the survey we wanted to know how young people would get hold of alcohol if they were going to drink, and how they would act if they couldn’t get the alcohol from someone they know. The most common solutions according to the survey were to ask siblings or other close relatives over the age of 20, boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, a friend over the age of 20, or to ask your own parents/guardians.

Among male respondents one of the most common answer options was that they would turn to a dealer. For the girls, there was a significantly larger proportion who would turn to a person they knew before turning to a dealer.

The survey also inquired what the young people would do, if they wouldn’t obtain alcohol through someone they already knew. 31 percent would ask another adult (pusher) who provides young people with alcohol, but 45 percent would refrain from obtaining alcohol altogether.

Getting alcohol via social media

In Sweden, so-called bucket accounts on social media have received increasing attention, especially in metropolitan areas. These accounts can be found via the hashtag #bucket, and promote the illegal sale of alcohol to minors through private social media accounts. Once the accounts have been discovered and shut down, they have often resurfaced shortly under similar names.

Through the survey, we wanted to gain more knowledge about how minors use such bucket accounts. 16 percent of the 16- and 18-year-old Swedish respondents in the 2022 survey Who can be trusted? say that they have at some point bought alcohol from a so-called bucket account, alone or together with others.

The most common social media platform for shopping on bucket accounts was Snapchat, followed by Instagram. These two platforms were also two of the four most commonly used social media platforms in total among the youth, alongside Tiktok and Youtube.

Knowledge is power

Getting a thorough insight on young peoples media habits, opinions and trust is beneficial for everyone working in the field of alcohol prevention. Preventive coordinators on the municipality level, school health care, social services and decision-makers at different levels need to know the role social media plays in young people’s lives, in order to make informed decisions, and communicate about these efforts efficiently.

Through CAN’s survey Who can be trusted?we get access to up-to-date knowledge about young people in relation to the media and trust, but also about the ways that young people get hold of alcohol. Now we want to encourage everyone in the preventive field to use this knowledge in the quest to create a safer and better life for the young people in Sweden.


This article is written by

Sara Kristensson
Head of Communications, CAN

on the request of PopNAD