Children are exposed to a number of risks as they grow older. Parents are either too strict or too lax when it comes to disciplining their child. Sometimes, even if the intentions of parents are for their children’s own sake, certain unfavorable events happen.
Ordinarily, teens are curious and adventurous. They just seem to have an endless thirst to try something new, most especially getting involved with adult activities such as smoking and drinking. In order to feel like they belong to a group and appear cool in school, some teenagers end up getting involved in situations that unknowingly lead them to uncontrollable behavior.
Why Do Teenagers Drink Alcohol?
Generally, the cause of teen alcohol drinking cannot be pinpointed to a single factor. Teen drinking is very common among peers as it is their way to have a good time. Some of the reasons for drinking include the following:
- It’s a way of wanting to have freedom to do things on their own. Thinking that they are no longer kids, some adolescents are likely to get into a drinking spree during their free time. Some of them feel liberated to grab hold of a bottle of beer during parties.
- Teens are curious to try new things that despite knowing the possibilities of being caught or realizing the possible effect, they continue to drink.
- Teens sometimes think that drinking can give them an exhilarating feeling. Seeing how others would feel so free to do whatever they want with the help of alcohol, some teens consider drinking to help boost their confidence. Moreover, because of seemingly positive social experiences, teens are likely to drink more than adults.
- A huge influence on teen drinking is based on the behavioral and psychological factors that are directly related to their genes. Teenagers whose parents are habitual or frequent drinkers are twice more likely to become alcoholic themselves.
- Adolescents who are depressed, anxious or withdrawn are more likely to have a greater risk of having a drinking problem.
- Environmental factors such as peer pressure also play a significant role in alcohol use. For example, a teenage girl who has an older boyfriend may be inclined to drink when they hang out together. The same goes if her boyfriend is taking drugs.
- Furthermore, the impact of the media may also be one of the reasons why teens are attracted to drinking alcohol. Just look at how alcohol products are being advertised on television and billboards, and how drinking alcohol has been promoted as a form of entertainment and socialization. When teens see these ads, they may think that it is alright for them to try it themselves. The dangers of drinking excessively use are not explained in these ads, and so teens see this as something positive.
Statistics on Teen Alcohol Use
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among teens. About half of the junior and senior high school students in the U.S. admitted to drinking on a monthly basis. Underage drinking is a predominant problem affecting the youth of today.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.7 million Americans aged between 12- 20 years old report regular consumption of alcohol. The good news is that there’s a gradual decline in alcohol consumption among 8th, 10th and 12th graders. Despite this, alcohol consumption remains a major concern for both the government and parents.
Here are some more facts and figures about teen alcoholism:
- About 2,000 people under the age of 21 years old die of car accidents in which teen drinking is involved.
- Roughly 200,000 people under the age of 21 visit the emergency room each year due to alcohol-related injuries each year.
- Males who tend to start drinking at an early age is less likely to finish school.
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol can most likely lead to heroin use.
- Along with alcohol, teens are likely to combine it with marijuana.
The Role of Parents
Parents are expected to provide love, care, and support to their children. Included in this responsibility is giving them advice and information that can help them live their daily lives. Some parents may feel the need to get the approval of their children, to a point of letting their kids do things their way. Unfortunately, some parents think that allowing their children to try out alcohol and being lenient makes them better at parenting.
Some parents allow their children as young as 15 years old to drink alcohol during parties held in their homes. While parents may think that it is their way of winning their teen children’s heart, it somehow becomes the start of something dangerous. Imposing supervision over teen drinking at home with his friends should be considered a good and necessary activity to improve the life of teens.
When parents bargain with their kids and allow them to drink at home, it may actually be a starting point for excessive drinking.
The Effects of Alcohol Use Among Teens
The primary intention of teens in drinking alcohol is to have fun. Consequently, when this gets out of hand, it may lead to huge problems such as:
- Emotional changes
- Fatal car accidents
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Uncontrolled or unprotected sex
- Hostile behavior
Some short-term effects include:
- Slurred speech
- Lowering of body temperature
- Sleep disruption
Among the long-term effects of alcohol use are:
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Nausea and vomiting
When alcohol is mixed with drugs, the effects can be exacerbated to the point of resulting to an immediate death. This is especially true when alcohol is taken with benzodiazepines.
Other side effects from alcohol consumption can result to:
- Liver damage
- Depression of the Immune System
- Reduced sexual performance
- Psychological issues
Effects of Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning is an extremely dangerous consequence of drinking a large amount of alcohol. Immediate medical care is needed when these symptoms have become visible.
- Marked confusion
- Respiratory depression
- Irregular breathing
- Cyanosis of the lips and fingernails
- Cold, clammy skin
- Tendency to pass out
In serious cases, the following may happen:
- Cessation of breathing
- Heart attack
- Dehydration may result in brain damage.
- Risk of choking on own vomit
- Drop in glucose level (hypoglycemia), resulting in seizures.
Alcohol Tolerance and Dependence
Alcohol has the ability to alter the normal functions of the brain. A person who takes the same amount of alcohol frequently may develop tolerance. In other words, a much larger amount will be needed in order to attain the desired effect.
Tolerance may happen eventually after a few months of constant drinking. When this happens, the person may find it difficult to function without having to drink alcohol every day.
Warning Signs that your Teen has a Drinking Problem
The signs and symptoms of drinking may be different for every individual. These are based on the person’s genetic make-up, the frequency of use, and amount consumed.
Some of the common behavioral symptoms of alcohol use in teens include:
- Changing group of friends
- Decreased personal hygiene
- Marked behavioral changes
- Decreased academic performance
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Sudden need for money
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or at school
- Argumentative/hostile behavior
- Withdrawn from social gatherings
- Loss of interest to be among family members or join family gatherings
- Mood swings
Physical symptoms may include any of the following:
- Change in sleeping pattern
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred or garbled speech
- Coordination problems
- Distinct difference in physical appearance
- Smell of booze
Teachers may recognize any changes in school performance that affect the teen, such as:
- Decreased ability to pay attention in class
- Unable to participate in class discussions
- Short-term memory gaps
- Difficulty concentrating
Extreme drinking can mask mental disorders. Therefore, some teens who have been using alcohol for a long time end up having difficulty recovering, since alcohol use has severely affected the normal functioning of the brain.
Treatment for Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol overdose or poisoning is due to an intake of toxic amounts of alcohol in the body. The substance is absorbed by the body faster than food. Therefore, the amount of alcohol that enters the bloodstream can affect the person in a matter of minutes.
The liver is only able to process a limited amount of booze. Therefore, consuming more than a reasonable amount can lead to intoxication.
Alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention. While waiting for the ambulance, these should be done:
- Try to talk to the person to keep him awake.
- As much as possible, avoid laying him flat on the ground or on the bed. Put the person in a sitting position. If it is difficult for the person to keep him in that position, lay him down with his head slightly turned to the side to avoid possible choking from his vomit.
- Let the person drink water.
- If the person became unconscious, check on his breathing/respiration.
- Never give coffee since caffeine can worsen dehydration.
- Do not allow the person to drink more.
- Never attempt to make the person stand or walk.
When the person is admitted to the hospital, depending on the blood alcohol level, other treatments may include:
- The patient may be intubated to allow easier breathing.
- An intravenous drip can be given to avoid dehydration.
- It is also possible for a catheter to be used should the patient develop incontinence.
- In more serious cases, there may be a need to pump the person’s stomach to flush out the alcohol from his system.
There are 2,200 deaths due to alcohol poisoning each year in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
When approaching a teen with an alcohol problem, he may be hesitant to accept any help since he may not be aware that he has become an alcoholic. Dragging your teen to a medical facility would not make it any easier.
Instead of forcing to turn himself in, it is best that you talk to your teen in a way that both of you come into terms and understand what is going on.
There are medical facilities that offer treatment such as psychological evaluation. A common reason among teens who became alcoholics is that they feel that they’re not being heard or understood by their parents. Giving them the reassurance that every problem can be opened up to their parents should make the teen feel better.
Along with the treatment of the teen is the support of the family and friends. This way, the teen may feel that despite everything that has happened, his family and friends remain at his side while he tries to live a normal life again.