Research studies on alcoholism in teenagers show that the earlier an adolescent begins to drink, the greater the chances for alcohol abuse or long-term dependence on the drug.
Data from a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) indicates that teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency than those who start consuming at 21 years of age.
A survey of students in grades 8, 10 and 12, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), amplifies the problem of underage drinking and why alcoholism in teenagers continues to be a pervasive problem among today’s youth.
In another survey of nearly 5,000 high school seniors and dropouts, 80% reported getting drunk, drinking and driving, or binge drinking.
Moreover, greater than half of respondents said their drinking made them feel ill, miss work or school, be involved in a car crash, or get arrested.
In a commentary on Youth Drinking: Risk Factors and Consequences, NIAA Director Enoch Gordis, M.D. emphasized that alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug among youth and causes serious and potentially life-threatening problems.
He further emphasizes that youth drinking requires significant attention… because of the extensive human and economic impact of alcohol use by teens.
High risk factors for alcoholism in teenagers include early onset of drinking and substance abuse, close family members with the disease, and deficits in visual and auditory processing, according to an article written by Shirley Y. Hill, Ph.D. and published in the August 2000 issue of Biological Psychiatry.
In addition to genetic factors and how early in life drinking begins, teenager alcoholism may be influenced by the behavior of parents, peers and other role models.
The NIAAA reports that a teen’s susceptibility to advertising and psychological needs also play roles in the manifestation of dependence.
If you have a teenager, be alert to signs and symptoms provided by Mayo Clinic that may indicate a problem with alcohol:
What are the Effects of Alcoholism in Teenagers?
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, alcohol abuse in teenagers can result in:
How to Prevent Alcoholism in Teenagers
Prevention is the key to stopping alcoholism in teenagers. The more you know about alcohol abuse, the more you can do to help your teenager avoid this serious problem.
The Mayo Clinic recommends talking with teens who may be at risk for alcoholism if they exhibit any of the symptoms mentioned previously. Be sure to include questions about their friends and what activities occupy their time during school or on weekends.
Also, keep up-to-date on health issues that affect youth such as sexual activity, skin infections and other medical problems.
Resist pressure from family members, peers and even some educators who might try to convince you that underage drinking is okay at social events or parties where alcohol will be served.
With the proper information, knowledge and guidance, teenagers can learn how to avoid alcoholism.
Treatment of Alcoholism in Teenagers
When alcoholism in teenagers involves the use of illegal drugs, teens may be sent to an addiction rehabilitation center that offers intensive treatment for withdrawal symptoms and methods of achieving long-term sobriety.
Since family support is so important, parents should be involved in the early stage of rehab. Counseling sessions for the entire family will help every member learn not only how to address their own problems but also cope with stress levels related to accepting one's child as an alcoholic.
If school performance or grades are affected by teen drinking, students can take advantage of special programs that accommodate their educational needs while fostering a sober lifestyle.
Depending on the severity of alcoholism in teenagers, treatment may last anywhere from 30 days to several years. Teenagers are encouraged to manage their disease and avoid second-hand drinking.
Alcoholism is a serious problem in the United States and carries with it a multitude of far-reaching consequences if left untreated.
The specific treatment for alcoholism in teenagers is different from that for adults because of varying physical and psychological conditions. Alcoholism in teenagers requires professional intervention. When alcoholism in teens becomes an addiction, the result can be tragic if not addressed promptly.
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If your loved one or someone you know is battling with teenage alcoholism, it's never too late to stop them and get them on the right track. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today.
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Ellickson, P.L., et al. Teenagers and alcohol misuse in the United States: By any definition, it's a big problem. Addiction 91(10):1489-1503, 1996.