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Alcohol consumption by teenagers (below 21 years) is a major challenge in the contemporary society. Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug in America compared to other illicit drugs such as tobacco. Though alcohol consumption is illegal among teenagers, it is established that 11% of alcohol is taken by people aged 12-20 years, whereby most teenagers take it in form of binge drinks. On average, teenagers consume more alcohol in a given drinking occasion compared to their adult counterparts. In 2010, an average of 4,300 deaths of youths was recorded and approximately 189,000 teenagers were hospitalized due to injuries and other alcohol-related conditions (U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services 2012). This paper pays high attention to the factors that lure teenagers to alcoholism, the adverse effects that are associated with alcohol consumption among the youths, and the potential prevention measures that can be employed in order to curb or minimize the rate of teenage alcoholism.
Factors that make teenagers consume alcohol
As children enter the teenage stage, they experience extensive hormonal and lifestyle changes. The developmental transitions such as puberty and increasing desire of being independent have been linked with alcohol consumption. Moreover, brain development at this stage continues to establish extensive communication and experimentation of various aspects such as sex, drugs, and socialization. Thus, teenagers have high potential of taking risks without considering the adverse effects that may result. Researchers have revealed that most teenagers start experimenting with alcohol without recognizing the action has consequences (Help Guide 2014).
Consecutively, teenage alcoholism arises due to influence from relatives, parents and friends. Most studies depict that children whose parents are addicted to alcohol have high chances of taking alcohol in their life, while a teenager who has an alcoholic friend has high probability of taking alcohol and other illegal substances in her life. Precisely, teenagers of alcoholics have between 4 to ten more chances of becoming alcoholic compared to those whose parents or relatives are not alcoholic. Moreover, researchers have also associated teenage alcoholism with mass media. In the contemporary society, alcohol is aggressively promoted through the radio, internet, billboards, television and other avenues of increasing consumer awareness to the produced goods or services. A study involving both 6th and 9th graders has revealed that most teenagers who view these advertisements usually develop positive attitude towards alcohol. This is evident by the way these teenagers start purchasing products or clothes with logos of the various alcoholic brands (Help Guide 2014).
Alcohol consumption is likely to kill most youths than the combination of all other illegal drugs. Moreover, the short term and long term adverse consequences that occur due to teenage alcoholism are astonishing in their range and magnitude, as they extend to the people around them and the society as a whole. Teenage alcoholism is associated with injuries and social consequences such as suicide and high-risk behaviors. Researchers have revealed that most deaths that are reported among alcoholic teenagers are caused by reckless driving. It is evident that most teenagers do not have adequate driving experience compared to their adult counterparts. Thus, the magnitude of teenage risks is elevated by the latter`s behavior of taking alcohol despite having less driving experience. Studies show that an average of 38% of teenage deaths is reported every year due to road accidents (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 2014). In addition, teenage alcoholism is associated with suicide attempts due to depression and stress that are associated with alcohol intake. In one study, 37% of alcoholic youths in the eighth grade are reported to have attempted to commit suicide compared to 11% of those who do not take alcohol.
Consecutively, alcohol intake is linked with high-risk sexual behaviors due to its ability to impair one`s moral judgment. For example, alcoholism among youths makes them to engage in unprotected sexual behaviors with multiple partners, leading to high cases of unwanted pregnancies and transmission of sexuality transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids (Help Guide 2014). Recent studies indicate that high-risk sexual behaviors depend on the quantity of alcohol consumed. The probability of practicing unprotected sex increases when the quantity of alcohol consumed is sufficient to impair one’s judgment, but decreases when heavier amounts are consumed, as they result in mental confusion and feelings of nausea.
Additionally, sexual assaults such as rape arise mostly in female alcoholic teenagers. One survey result shows that, approximately 10% of female high school ladies report having been raped when drunk (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 2014). This study also depicts that female teenagers who consume alcohol, increases their probability of being sexually assaulted by a male acquaintance.
At teenage stage, brain transition is always at the maximum since significant changes occur in their body, including hormonal alterations and the formation of new networks in the brain. Moreover, at this stage, the youths are characterized by their numerous attempts of experiencing new things and activities, some of which include socializing with peers and forming peer-group standards. Alcohol intake at this period interrupts key brain developments, which may result in mild cognitive impairment that in the long run escalate the tendency of drinking. This mild cognitive impairment affects their occupational and academic achievements. In a study that evaluated the memory skills of both alcohol dependent teenagers, and non-dependent teenagers revealed that alcoholic teenagers have high difficulties of remembering simple words and geometric designs. Moreover, it is anticipated that alcohol-induced brain damage persists even after the prevalence of alcohol intake declines. Sophisticated imaging techniques have also revealed that there are structural differences in the brains of alcoholic teenagers. The hippocampus (a brain section that is responsible for memory and learning) becomes smaller in alcoholic youths compared to non- alcoholic ones (Help Guide 2014).
Early exposure to alcohol is also linked with dependence. According to most researchers, individuals who start consuming alcohol at the age of 15 years, have almost four times probability of developing alcohol dependence in their life compared to those who start taking alcohol after 21 (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 2014).
The above short and long-term risks that are associated with alcohol consumption among the youths underscore the need for prevention interventions and treatment programs. Researchers have revealed that personal, environmental and social factors that lure teenagers to start taking and escalating alcohol consumption are necessary for developing such prevention interventions. Alcohol prevention programs are classified into two broad categories that include individual-focused interventions and environmental or community-focused intervention strategies.
Most researchers suggest that the ultimate and reliable determinant of preventing an individual’s alcohol drinking behaviors is through determining the drinking behaviors of his or her peers. Many research-based interventions target teenagers’ relevant behavior skills such as his or her potential of reacting appropriately to peer pressure influence and his or her attitude, knowledge and intentions in relation to alcohol consumption. It is evident that most teenagers start consuming alcohol due to influence from their friends, after which they become dependent on alcohol. Social education equips most teenagers with skills of resisting alcohol taking influences from their peers. It is anticipated that most teenagers start taking alcohol because they are not sensitized on the dangers that are associated with alcohol. Instituting and implementing educational or counseling and guidance programs that address ways of overcoming social pressures of alcoholism can reduce teenage alcoholism to greater extents (Spoth, Greenberg &Turrisi 2014).
Consecutively, family-based prevention programs can reduce teenage alcoholism in this 21st century. Most researchers have revealed that most parental aspects contribute to teenage alcoholism. This is through the assessment of numerous family aspects such as methods of instituting discipline to teenagers, parent-child relationship, parental monitoring and supervision of children, communication and other parental involvements (Bonnie & O’Connell Pp. 402–416). Most researchers have established that most teenagers are deemed to take alcohol if their parents would not punish them. Moreover, parents who set, implement and enforce proper rules against alcohol minimizes the likelihood of teenage alcoholism.
Another vital factor that influences teenagers to start drinking is the availability of alcohol, and the environmental factors that make teenagers develop a positive attitude towards alcohol. That is, the efforts that are needed by teenagers in order to access alcohol as determined by economic, geographical and social factors. Environmental and community-based programs are in some cases supplemental by changing and implementing policies in order to minimize the access of alcohol among teenagers, and decrease the adverse consequences that are associated with alcohol consumption. For example, since most youths afford to raise the amount of money required to access alcohol, raising the price of alcohol can greatly limit most teenagers from buying alcoholic drinks. A substantial body of research reveals that imposing high levies on alcohol reduces the rates of alcohol consumption especially to the schooling youths, and the proportionate alcohol-related adverse effects (Spoth, Greenberg &Turrisi 2014).
Consecutively, raising the minimum legal alcohol taking age beyond twenty-one years can also reduce the rates of alcohol intake and alcohol-related road accidents among teenagers. For example, in the United States, raising the age that people could starting taking alcohol to twenty-one years helped in preventing the occurrence of 21,000 traffic deaths between 1976 and 2008 (Spoth, Greenberg &Turrisi 2014). Moreover, enacting zero-tolerance laws can help in curbing the rates of alcohol-related crash deaths especially among youths. For example, the first states to implement zero-tolerance laws showed 21% decline of road accidents among drivers who were less than 21 years compared to those states that had not adopted such laws. Additionally, enforcing laws of advertising and purchasing of alcoholic drinks are necessary for reducing teenage alcoholism. These laws involve including the side effects of alcohol use while advertising, and taking serious legal actions to sellers who would sell alcohol to teenagers.
However, drinking and driving laws become more effective when integrated with community-based intervention strategies that call for the cooperation of business leaders, local governments and community organizations in eradicating alcoholism among youths. A good example is the Community Mobilization for Change on Alcohol (CMCA) that strived to change policies in an attempt of reducing teenage alcoholism (Bonnie & O’Connell Pp. 402–416).
It is, therefore, attested that teenage alcoholism is a public health issue that requires to be addressed with an immediate effect in order to save the current and the future generation. Most teenagers commence taking alcohol due to hormonal changes that make them take high-risk behaviors and environmental influences such as alcohol advertisements and presence of alcoholic parents. Apparently, teenage alcoholism has numerous adverse effects such as dependence and brain damage. However, through the adoption and implementation of numerous public health prevention and intervention strategies, the vice of teenage alcoholism can be contained with ease. These intervention strategies strive to enhance the youth`s self-esteem, identity and motivation, with the aim of sensitizing them to be managers of their own health through making deliberate, healthy and informed choices in relation to alcohol use.
Bonnie, R.J., and O’Connell, M.E., eds. “Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility.” Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004. Available online at: http://www.nap.edu/books/0309089352/html.
Help Guide, “Teenage Drinking,” Retrieved on October 2014, from, http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/the-dangers-of-teenage-drinking.htm
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “Underage and College Drinking,” Retrieved on October 2014, from, https://ncadd.org/for-youth/underage-and-college
SpothRichard, GreenbergMark, TurrisiRobert, “Preventive Interventions Addressing Underage Drinking: State of the Evidence and Steps Toward Public Health Impact,” retrieved on 20th October, 2014, from, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/Supplement_4/S311.abstract
U.S. Department of Health And Human Services, “Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 2012,” Retrieved from, http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/vol1_2012.pdf