Issues with Teenagers and Alcohol Abuse People have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years, and attitudes about alcohol have fluctuated greatly over the centuries. It has gone from being an accepted form of relaxation to being a tool of the devil and recently it has risen to the number one drug of choice among North American teenagers. Alcohol is classified as a drug because of its effects on the body. It is not digested like a food; instead it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream and travels to the brain.
Alcohol first acts as a stimulant by making the drinker feel happy and less inhibited because alcohol affects the part of the brain responsible for learned behaviors, like self-control. As more alcohol enters the bloodstream and saturates the brain, it starts to act as a depressant on the central nervous system. This results in slurred speech, loss of co-ordination and possibly a drop in level of consciousness. On Friday and Saturday nights, drinking is the recreational activity of choice for many teenagers, some of them being underage, making this an illegal pastime.
However it is not the fact that there are many underage drinkers that is so dangerous, it is the general abuse of alcohol that is causing problems. Whether they are underage or legal seems to not make much of a difference since “38% of young drinkers reported getting drunk for the first time before grade 10. ” (Grosshandler 31) But it makes sense to think that drinkers who start young and continue to abuse alcohol will more likely be problem drinkers when they get older. Many kids have their first drink because they are curious and they want to fit in, possibly with an older crowd.
If their first experience turns out to be a pleasurable one, they will continue to drink to get high, this being where a problem develops. Drinking to get drunk becomes a habit, so that every Friday, Saturday, and often other nights as well turn into competitions about who can get wasted first and who the last person left standing will be. A recent trend has been to “front-load” that is to arrive at a party or event already intoxicated. It is hard to imagine how a party could go anywhere but downhill when everybody staggers in.
Our society’s cavalier attitude about alcohol can be partially attributed to its familiarity. Athletes and celebrities drink and endorse their favorite alcoholic beverage and many parents drink. Often alcohol is as close as the refrigerator. Parents who drink in front of their children are influencing their children’s’ attitudes about alcohol. If they see their parents drinking to unwind after a hard day or coping with a problem by having “a good stiff drink”, teenagers may likewise turn to alcohol as an escape from their problems.
Conversely, if teens see their parents drinking responsibly, they may imitate that behaviour. Teenagers’ drinking habits influence how alcohol will be a part of their lives, so odds are if they drink irresponsibly as a teenager, they may continue those habits into adulthood. Case in point, 39. 5% of college students (being over 18 and considered adults) drink to get drunk and 42% binge drink at least once every two weeks (Adler 72). Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more consecutive drinks.
Some may say that this is part of the “college experience”, but these habits are not easy to kick, not to mention the effects that alcohol abuse can have on some peoples lives. Binge drinking is something of a ritual among college students, particularly involving initiation into fraternities. Extremely large quantities of alcohol are consumed, sometimes with deadly results. “90% of fatal fraternity hazing accidents involve drinking” (Adler 72). Causes of alcohol-related deaths are numerous and could range from accidents caused by impaired judgment, alcohol poisoning or drunk driving fatalities.
Impaired judgment and lowered perception caused by the consumption of alcohol can lead to all kinds of problems for the drinker as well as other individuals. “Second-hand drinking” (Adler 73) is a term being used to describe the effects of the actions of drinkers on non-drinkers, likening it to the health-risks associated with second-hand smoke. Some drinkers have the attitude that they can do whatever they want because they’re not hurting anyone but themselves, but this is not the case. Often property is destroyed and people are injured. 5% of violent crime on college and university campuses is alcohol or drug-related. Lowered inhibitions also make sexual encounters more risky for several reasons. In an intoxicated state, people often act differently and do things wouldn’t normally do and, more importantly, might regret doing later. Safe-sex practices are often abandoned, which is especially dangerous considering the people involved may not know each other. Impaired judgment and increased aggression is the cause of 73% of assailants and 55% of rape victims being under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the incident occurred.
Alcohol’s effects on the mind on body make it a threat to athletic performance. It has never been proven that alcohol in any way enhances performance by letting athlete run faster or farther or score more goals. But many studies have shown that alcohol does have an adverse effect on the performance of athletes who consumed 3-4 drinks 14 hours prior to participating. When athletes use alcohol before performing, either immediately or up to 14 hours before, their balance and steadiness are compromised and their reaction time slows down.
Athletes involved in sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or tennis show the effects of drinking more dramatically than a runner or a swimmer because they are required to make a number of judgments and quick decisions, and keep track of their teammates and opponents. Even moderate drinking before performance makes it increasingly difficult for an athlete to keep their eyes on the ball and visually track other players. Alcohol impairs the athlete’s ability to remember the rules and to act on split-second educated hunches.
For teenagers who want help, it is not difficult to attain through churches, schools, and help lines. Support groups exist for dealing with alcoholism. The commonly held belief is that to deal with alcoholism, the alcoholic must remain sober for the rest of their lives, to exercise self-control and not be tempted. This seems to be the only effective treatment because alcoholics cannot control the amount they drink once they start, so in order to regain control over their lives, alcoholics must stay sober.
However it is this philosophy that prevents some problem drinkers from seeking help. A symptom of problem drinking is denial that a problems exists, they think they have control and will not willingly give up drinking. Sadly, often a problem drinker becomes an alcoholic because of their desperate denial. They have to hit “rock bottom” before they will seek help. Parents and teachers alike are concerned about teenagers who drink, and particularly those who drink heavily. Often the more they intervene, the less it seems to help.
One solution seems to be to provide good role models and this has already started to happen. Some breweries have launched campaigns promoting responsible drinking, and against drinking and driving. It is unrealistic to think that teenagers will not drink at all, but hopefully when more mature attitudes about drinking are portrayed, teenagers will adopt them. Bibliography Adler, Jerry, and Debra Rosenberg. “The Endless Binge. ” Newsweek, 19 December 1984: 72-73. Grosshandler, Janet.
Coping with Alcohol Abuse. New York: Rosen Publishing Group Inc. , 1990. Porterfield, Kay-Marie. “And the Loser is…The Drinking Athlete. ” Current Health, October 1990: 19-19. Heather, Nick, and Ian Robertson. Problem Drinking. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Robinson, Jancis. How to Handle Your Drink. Great Britain: Mitchell Beazley International, 1989. Wekesser, Carol, ed. Alcoholism. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1994. “When Teenager Girls Turn to Alcohol. ” USA Today, April 1992: 5.