The teenage drinking statistics are staggering. More than half of all high school seniors report being drunk at least once. But many teens are drinking more than just once. Teenage alcoholism is a serious problem in the U.S. and in other countries.
It’s one thing to talk about the teenage drinking statistics, but it’s another to look at the real-life problems caused by teenage alcoholism. Teen alcoholics often suffer from a number of problems related to their drinking. They often suffer from a number of problems that led up to their excessive drinking, as well.
Often the first sign that a teen has a drinking problem is poor performance at school. Grades drop, a student begins to have unexcused absences, and may get in fights with other students. Teen alcoholics often have difficulty getting along with authority figures such as teachers and principals, as well.
Teenage alcoholism also causes problems at home. Teens often become withdrawn from their family, and the problem getting along with authority figures leads to frequent arguments with parents.
Alcoholic teens may also have problems with the law. Underage drinking itself is illegal. Teens may also drive while under the influence. They may also engage in risky behaviors, such as driving too fast. They may become threatening or violent during arguments at home or school.
Teen alcoholics may also begin using other substances, such as marijuana or other drugs. While alcohol is the most abused substance among teens, it can often serve as a “gateway drug,” leading into more serious substances. For instance, teens who use alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than teens who don’t drink alcohol.
It’s hard to say for certain why teens drink. Many teens take their first drink out of curiosity. They may begin drinking socially or out of peer pressure. But with teenage alcoholism, at some point drinking becomes more than that.
Teenage drinking statistics tell us that many teens report drinking to relieve stress. These teens report being under a great deal of stress or experiencing a lot of anxiety in the home, and state that drinking “helps their nerves.”
Teenage drinking statistics also tell us that teens often drink when they are depressed, believing that alcohol will make them feel better. They do not realize that alcohol is a depressant. Instead of making them feel better, it actually makes the depression worse.
Finally, teenage drinking statistics tell us that a disproportionate number of teen alcoholics suffer from problems such as physical and sexual abuse, eating disorders, and undiagnosed or untreated psychological problems. Teens drink in an effort to self-medicate.
Addressing the causes of teenage alcoholism is a good start. Identifying at-risk kids and providing services at an early age will help tremendously. Schools are in an excellent position to do this.
Of course, parents can help immensely. They can be educated about warning signs to watch for, and how to intervene. They can also be taught how to talk to their teens about alcohol and drugs, which has been proven to dramatically decrease the risk of teens abusing those substances.
Educating teens about alcoholism is another important component of a prevention strategy. Teens need to understand the dangers of alcohol abuse, but more importantly, they need to learn more positive coping skills. Again, schools are in an excellent position to teach these skills, but after-school programs, community agencies, churches, and other organizations can also provide such services.
Preventing teen alcoholism needs to be a community effort. To find out how you can get involved, you can contact your local community council on alcoholism.
NIH: Underage Drinking