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Teen Alcohol Abuse

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According to U.S. demographic statistics, teen alcohol abuse is starting at earlier ages AND increasing.

This is an interesting fact, but does it mean that adolescent alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism are serious problems?

Teen Alcohol Abuse Research By The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Research studies demonstrate that teen alcohol abuse starts at a very early age.

More precisely, the average age when teenagers first try alcohol is 13 years old for girls and 11 years old for boys.

The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly, according to these studies is 15.9 years old.

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According to a research study undertaken by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to suffer from dangerous alcohol side effects like dependency on alcohol than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age or older.

In fact, according to Joseph A. Califano, Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, "a child who reaches age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using drugs is virtually certain never to do so."

Are the above underage drinking and teenage alcohol abuse statistics important?

Consider this: in 1998, United States alcohol dependency and alcohol abuse researchers embarked upon a study to ascertain the total cost associated with to the negative consequences of underage drinking such as teenage alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism. The cost was more than $58 billion per year.

This dollar amount is so large that it is essentially incomprehensible.

The bottom line: the cost associated with the negative effects of underage drinking such as teenage alcoholism and adolescent alcohol abuse is equivalent to the total worth of 58,000 millionaires!

Once this huge number is comprehended, it becomes very clear that alcohol side effects such as adolescent alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism are major problems in the U.S.

A Study Conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services

In a 1996 report done by the Department of Health and Human Services, the following was discovered:

  • Most teens don't know the strengths of different alcoholic drinks. For instance, the alcohol content is different in wine, beer, wine coolers, and whiskey. And to complicate matters, each form of alcoholic beverage can contain different amounts of alcohol. For example, some beer has a low percentage of alcohol while others have two or three times the alcoholic content.

  • 33% of the teens surveyed did not understand the risky alcohol side effects that are linked to alcohol intoxication.

  • 80% of teens do not know that a shot of whiskey has the same amount of alcohol as a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer.

What Makes Up One Drink?

As a result of the study performed by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1996, it seems important to point out that one drink is defined as containing one-half of an ounce of pure ethyl alcohol.

Based on this fact, each of the following is considered to be one drink:

  • 10 ounces to 12 ounces of beer at 4% to 5% alcohol content

  • 1.25 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits at 40% alcohol content

  • 8 ounces to 12 ounces of wine cooler at 4% to 5% alcohol content

  • 4 ounces to 5 ounces of table wine at 9% to 12% alcohol content

  • 2.5 ounces of fortified wine at 20% alcohol content

  • 1 ounce of 100 proof distilled spirits at 50% alcohol content

Social Aspects of Teen Alcohol Abuse

Research has revealed that teenage drinking is mainly a social activity. In fact, teens rarely drink alone.

Stated differently, the more teens drink, the more likely their drinking will be with other teens.

And the more teenagers drink the more likely they will experience destructive alcohol side effects that are related to adolescent alcohol abuse and/or teenage alcoholism.

There are, however, many other reasons besides peer influence that lead to teen drinking.

Indeed, the social environment and media influences may also play a key role in a teen's decision to drink.

These external factors, on the other hand, do not explain the whole picture.

That is, according to alcohol and drug addiction experts, various personality traits have been identified that can lead to teenage alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism.

For instance, teens who have personalities that can be described as under-controlled, sensation or thrill seeking, or impulsive are considered at risk for alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Psychological Aspects of Adolescent Alcohol Abuse

Other teens who openly reject authority figures or who can't wait to grow up often drink excessively.

Not only this, but emotional problems can also lead to drug and alcohol use.

In fact, a study done in the mid-1990s revealed that two-thirds of the teens surveyed stated that they use drugs and alcohol to help them forget their problems.

One of the main psychological problems faced by teens that can lead to drinking is the dysfunctional nature of their family lifestyle.

As an illustration, teens with parents who face financial or relationship problems may start drinking for comfort.

Not only this, but if one or both of the teens' parents are alcoholic, according to one study, teens may be up to seven times more likely to experience alcohol side effects such as teenage alcoholism or teenage alcohol abuse when compared with teens who have nonalcoholic parents.

Conclusion: Teen Alcohol Abuse

As outlined above, research studies have demonstrated that teenage alcohol abuse is not only increasing but that it is starting at earlier ages.

Perhaps the main point of emphasis concerning underage drinking such as adolescent alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism is the following statistic from the NIAAA: teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to experience destructive alcohol side effects such as alcohol addiction than those who begin drinking at the legal age of 21.

Equipped with this information, political leaders, educators, community leaders, and parents need to educate our young people on the short-term and the long-term dangers of alcohol abuse and alcoholism BEFORE they become adolescent alcohol abusers and/or alcoholics and needlessly suffer from the risky and destructive alcohol side effects that are associated with teenage alcohol abuse and teenage alcoholism.

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Attention teenagers who are currently drinking alcohol. You need to be reminded that the more alcohol you consume in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that you will become an alcoholic.

If this describes you, then you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, either you or your parents need to make it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol treatment for you as soon as possible.

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