Teenage is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood. In American and European culture, adolescence covers a span of 10 years, from puberty to full biological maturation. At this time the individuals go through a lot of physical, emotional and social changes.
With these changes come many responsibilities that are different from those of childhood or full adulthood, aspects that are the essence of the adolescence period. Not all youngsters have it easy at this time and some try to escape into alcohol or drugs. That’s why teen alcohol abuse is a common problem for this age group. But what makes the teenage years such a difficult time?
- They experience disproportionate growth, girls gain weight and develop breasts, which makes them feel uncomfortable;
- Social and identity changes, sometimes confusions of roles; at about 12 or 13, they start to renegotiate the social definition of inter-gender relations;
- They become more curious and attracted by the opposite sex;
- Transition to romantic relationships and sexual experiences;
- Teenage pregnancy may occur which attracts social and family blame;
- Difficult relations with the parents, irritability, opposition to rules;
- Influence of peers is stronger than that of the family;
- Desire to make themselves noticed.
Many teenagers are vulnerable to such changes and try to resolve their problems by choosing to drink alcohol, smoke or consume drugs.
Reasons for teenagers to abuse alcohol
Alcohol is the most frequently used drug among teenagers. Adolescence is a time for experimenting but not all teenagers know when to stop in their risky behavior. Most teenagers drink occasionally without developing significant problems. The problem appears when they cross the border of social drinking and start to lose control over the situation. What makes drinking such a popular habit in this age category? Why do so many teenagers choose to drink? Take a look to what the teenagers say about their motives:
- Alcohol can be easily purchased in stores;
- Peer pressure from their friends urging them to drink;
- Cannot say “no” to friends who invite them to drink;
- Belief that drinking can solve their problems;
- Pressure from media models;
- The idea that everybody drinks;
- Family influence and patterns of drinking;
- Changing moods, coping with stress;
- Solution to relief from stress, pain, depression;
- It’s fun and interesting;
- Easy way to make friends.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse can lead to tolerance
Constant drinking can lead to tolerance and dependence. Teenagers who abuse alcohol may become resistant and not develop obvious signs of drunkenness or addiction. That’s why it is difficult to recognize a heavy drinker and we must pay attention to warning signs such as:
- Physical: sleep problems, tiredness, lack of energy, red eyes, repeated health problems;
- Emotional: mood changes without reason, low self-esteem, depression, no interest in school and things they use to like, irritability, self destructive behavior;
- Family: arguments with the parents, lack of communication, breaking parenting rules;
- School: frequent absenteeism, negative attitudes, lack of interest, delinquency, decline in academic performance;
- Behavior: conflicts with old friends choose new friends with whom they can drink, law problems, and impulsive behavior.
Statistics about teen drinking
- Boys first try alcohol when they are 11 years old on average;
- Girls first try alcohol when they are 13 years old on average;
- 70 percent of all teenagers drink alcohol;
- 60 percent of all teen deaths in car accidents are alcohol-related;
- Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21;
- It has been estimated that over 3 million teenagers are alcoholics; several million more have a serious drinking problem that they cannot manage on their own;
- The three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides; alcohol is a leading factor in all three;
- Binge drinking, often beginning around age 13, tends to increase during adolescence, peak in young adulthood (ages 18-22), then gradually decrease;
- Young people who drink alcohol are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than those who never drink alcohol.
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