Teen Alcohol Abuse Trend And Treatment
Alcohol is everywhere—on your TV, computer, phone, on billboards, and in your fridge. Hardly a day passes when a teen is not exposed to an advertisement for beer, wine or Bacardi. After all, alcohol is the most marketed product in the world. Is it really surprising there continues to be teen alcohol abuse?
That’s why—says 2010 National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded Monitoring the Future Study—alcohol continues to lead the pack for abused drugs.
The study revealed that 23% of 12th graders were binge drinkers—having five or more drinks in a row in the past 2 weeks—down from 25% the previous year. According to the study, nearly three out of every four 12th graders have tried alcohol—the next closest drug was marijuana at 43%.
Though these numbers fluctuate from year to year, the one certainty is that where there are teens, there will be alcohol and alcohol abuse.
What Causes Teen Alcohol Abuse?
Being a teen is tough. You are changing physically, emotionally and mentally. You are unwittingly preparing for adulthood. In many ways, teens are perfect candidates for abusing alcohol.
Certainly not all teens who try alcohol will end up needing addiction treatment. But just being a teen involves navigating a field of landmines. Here are, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the reasons teens drink:
Risky Business: Because a teenager’s brain continues to develop, it is furthering refining functions such as decision-making. Some teens seek out new situations, test new waters, and take potentially dangerous risks like drinking to excess.
Great Expectations: Research shows that a child’s beliefs about alcohol develop early. If they expect drinking to be a positive experience, they will be more likely to drink than those who do not.
RELAX: Alcohol makes teens more relaxed in social situations providing experiences that are more positive. It also helps teens to “fit in” with their peers.
You’ve Got a Personality: Certain personality traits affect a young person’s risk for alcohol abuse. These traits include disruptive, hyperactive and aggressive behavior. And those that are depressed, anxious or withdrawn.
It’s in the Genes: Studies show that children with alcoholic family members are 4 to 10 times more likely to abuse alcohol. These kids are also more likely to start drinking at a young age and to “progress to drinking problems more quickly.
Alcohol is all Around You: One possible explanation for teen alcohol abuse is environment. For example, the constant marketing bombardment of alcohol on TV, radio, and the Internet has been found to positively influence those kids who already have a favorable view on drinking.
Another influence is parents. “Parents who drink more and who view drinking favorably may have children who drink more.”
Social Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse
Most parents will know the physical signs (changes in weight, nausea, etc.) of alcohol problems in their kids. But what about social signs? These can be less obvious and harder to detect. Here is a list of possible warning signs:
- Problems at school like falling grades, absences, behavior problems
- Mood swings including irritability and defensive behavior
- Withdrawing from the family
- Lying about where they are going and who they are hanging out with
- Changes in their choice of friends
- Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, etc.
- Breaking curfew
- Becoming verbally and/or physically abusive towards others
There are obvious health risks with teen alcohol abuse. And some that are still being studied. The obvious:
- Drinking and Driving: Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for those aged 15 to 20. And drunk driving kills 1,900 teens a year.
- Suicide: As a depressant, alcohol can contribute to those teens who are already susceptible to depression and stress.
- Sexual Assault: Research shows that when alcohol is involved, the likelihood of sexual assault is increased. One study showed that 10% of female high schools students had reported being raped.
- High Risk Sex: There is a link between unwanted pregnancy and STDs and the quantity of alcohol consumed. The more consumed the more judgment is impaired.
The less obvious health risks:
- Brain Effects: Because teens’ brains are still developing, the impact of alcohol abuse can be greater leading to negative effects on long-term thinking and memory skills.
- Liver Effects: The damage to your liver from alcohol abuse may not manifest itself until later in life, but research shows that teen drinking, even moderate amounts, can elevate liver enzymes, which can lead to liver disease.
- Growth Effects: We talked earlier about all the rapid changes teens go through. Drinking too much can upset these changes leading to developmental issues in the organs, muscles and bones.
As long as there is alcohol, there will be teen alcohol abuse. If you’re a parent of a teen and you suspect they need help, you can search for addiction and treatment facilities using the Recoverycorps.org database. With help on selecting a treatment center, go here.