Teen Alcohol Abuse: The Risks
For young people, alcohol is the number one drug of choice. In fact, teens use alcohol more frequently and heavily than all other illegal drugs combined.
Although most children under age 14 have not yet begun to drink, early adolescence is a time of special risk for beginning to experiment with alcohol.
While some parents may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug.
Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.
What Are The Consequences Of Teen Alcohol Abuse?
- Alcohol-related traffic crashes are a major cause of death among teens. Alcohol use also is linked with youthful deaths by drowning,suicide, and homicide.
- Teens who use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex than teens who do not drink.
- Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, including rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.
- Teens who drink are more likely to have problems with school work and school conduct.
- Teen alcohol abuse can have a negative impact on self-esteem,relationship skills, physical and emotional independence, and future plans. As a result, teen drug abuse or alcohol problems may lead to difficulty building meaningful personal relationships or holding a job.
- An individual who begins drinking as a young teen is four timesmore likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol.
The message is clear: Teen alcohol abuse is very risky business for young people. And the longer children delay alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child avoid any alcohol use.
Why Do Teens Abuse Alcohol And Drugs? – Teen Alcohol Abuse
Teens use alcohol and other drugs for many reasons. They may do it because they want to fit in socially, they like the way drugs or alcohol makes them feel, or they want to feel more grown up. Teens tend to be risk-takers, and they may take drugs or drink alcohol because it seems exciting.
Adolescence who are at the biggest risk for developing serious teen alcohol abuse problems, are those with family members who already have problems with alcohol or drugs. Also, teens who feel that they are not connected to or valued by their parents or who have poor self-esteem or emotional or mental health problems such as (depression) are at increased risk.
What Substances Do Teens Abuse? – Teen Alcohol Abuse
What Are The Signs Of Teen Alcohol Abuse?
If your teen is using alcohol or drugs, you may notice changes in behavior and mood at home, in grades and attitude toward school, and in friends and leisure activities. You may find evidence such as cigarettes or drugs in your teen’s possession.
If you smell smoke or alcohol on your teen’s clothing or breath, it may indicate a substance abuse problem. If your teen frequently uses over-the-counter eye drops, it might indicate that he or she is trying to cover up red eyes caused by smoking marijuana.
Gender And Alcohol – Teen Alcohol Abuse
It used to be that boys consumed more alcohol than girls. But adolescent girls are catching up to teenage boys – and fast. Recent studies have found that girls in high school – especially those in lower grades – now drink almost as much as high school boys.
For both girls and boys, offers to drink are most likely to come from a friend, acquaintance or older relative of the same sex. Girls are more likely than boys to be offered a drink in a private setting and to be offered alcohol by someone they’re dating. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to receive offers of drinks from parents or friends.
The “friend factor” plays a significant role in teen alcohol abuse. Studies have shown that teens with five closest friends who drink are nine timesmore likely to drink than those with non-drinking friends.
There are other factors as well. Researchers and child development experts have cited several reasons for teen alcohol abuse:
- to experiment
- to socialize
- to test limits
- to belong to a peer group
- societal and media influence
- genetic influence
- to deal with problems
- to give their lives meaning
- to deal with the trials of adolescence
Teenage Girls At More Risk – Teen Alcohol Abuse
Puberty is considered a high-risk time for teen alcohol abuse for both boys and girls. However, girls are more likely than boys to experience depression, eating disorders or sexual abuse, all of which increase the risk for substance abuse.
Also, women and girls metabolize alcohol differently, which means that alcohol passes more quickly into their bloodstreams. As a result, they get drunk faster, hooked more easily, and suffer consequences of drinking more severely than males.
Teenage girls say they use alcohol to improve mood, increase confidence, reduce tension, cope with problems, lose inhibitions, feel sexy or lose weight.
Teen Boys And Teen Alcohol Abuse
Teenage boys are more likely to use alcohol or other drugs to experience getting high or to enhance their social status. Other factors that play a role in whether or not a young person drinks include genetics, personality, psychiatric disorders, suicidal behavior, expectancies about alcohol, the environment in which they live and traumatic experiences.
Overall, teens between the ages of 12 and 14 believe that the positive benefits of drinking (feeling good, fitting in with peers) are more likely to happen than the negative effects of drinking. However, despite this optimism, there can be no denying the negative cost of teen alcohol abuse.
When students were asked about the consequences of drinking, they learned that boys were more likely to have experienced trouble with parents, problems at school, problems in romantic relationships and physical fights. Girls were more likely to report having problems with friends and doing something they regretted as a result of drinking.
Driving Under The Influence (DUI) – Teen Alcohol Abuse
16-18-year-old boys were nearly twice as likely as girls their age to report driving while intoxicated and were five times more likely to report carrying a weapon when drinking.
Girls and boys aged 12-18 were equally matched in reporting mixing drugs and alcohol.
Added to this mix of increased alcohol use by young people is a media culture that glamorizes and promotes drinking. There is no shortage of ads that use sex to promote beer and liquor. In countless ads, girls and boys alike are bombarded by messages that build and reinforce positive associations between drinking and sex appeal, as well as independence, rebellion, maturity, fun, success and freedom – traits that are especially attractive to teens.
Talking With Your Child About Teen Alcohol Abuse
- You want your child to avoid alcohol. Be sure to clearly state your own expectations regarding your child’s drinking and to establish consequences for breaking rules. Your values and attitudes count with your child, even though he or she may not always show it.
- Drinking is illegal. Because alcohol use under the age of 21 is illegal, getting caught may mean trouble with the authorities. Even if getting caught doesn’t lead to police action, the parents of your child’s friends may no longer permit them to associate with your child. If drinking occurs on school grounds, your child could be suspended.
- To maintain self-respect. In a series of focus groups, teens reported that the best way to persuade them to avoid alcohol is to appeal to their self-respect—letting them know that they are too smart and have too much going for them to abuse alcohol.
- Drinking can be dangerous. One of the leading causes of teen deaths is motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol. Drinking also makes a young person more vulnerable to sexual assault and unprotected sex. And while your teen may believe he or she wouldn’t engage in hazardous activities after drinking, point out that because alcohol impairs judgment, a drinker is very likely to think such activities won’t be dangerous.
- You have a family history of alcoholism. If one or more members of your immediate or extended family has suffered from alcoholism, your child may be somewhat more vulnerable to developing a drinking problem. Your child needs to know that for him or her, drinking may carry special risks.
What Should I Do If My Teen Is Abusing Alcohol Or Drugs?
Any use of a substance by your teen should be taken seriously. If you believe your teen is abusing one or more substances, perhaps the most important thing you can do is encourage open communication with him or her. Try to be nonjudgmental and emotionally supportive during this time. In most cases, aggressive confrontation only serves to further isolate the teen from the family.
The type of treatment your teen needs depends on his or her level of substance abuse. For example, if a teen is experimenting with substances, open communication may be all that is needed for the teen to stop.
However, if your teen has developed a dependence on a drug or alcohol, he or she may need to undergo detoxification treatment or replacement therapy with medicine. Medicine works best if it is combined with individual or family counseling, or both.
If your teen is abusing or dependent on a substance, seek appropriate treatment. The most effectivetreatment programs will help your teen learn how to deal with drug cravings and high-risk situations and will help him or her discover alternative, healthy ways of meeting personal and social needs instead of using harmful substances.
As a parent, it is important to provide support and encouragement before, during, and after treatment. Since addiction is a disorder that could affect every member of the household, support groups or counseling for your family may be helpful in preventing your teen from returning to alcohol use after treatment.
The problem of teenage alcohol abuse is prevalent not only in America, but in other countries as well.
Sending your teenaged alcoholic to a teen alcohol treatment center is the best decision you will ever make.