Early Drinking Linked to Alcoholism

By Kia Wakefield

When researchers with the University of Washington wanted to find out if teen and adolescent drinking could lead to alcoholism and bad decision-making later in life, they used rats in an experiment.

Over a period of 20 days, the research team gave one group of young, adolescent rats gelatin shots of alcohol, and gave another group of rats nonalcoholic treats. Several weeks later when the rats were considered adults they gave the rats two choices. The rats could push a lever that spit out two sugary treats, or push another lever that gave them either four yummy pellets or possibly nothing at all. The rats that drank as adolescents were much more likely to push the lever that had the possibility of dispensing nothing at all. These rats were more inclined to make a risky choice. The non-alcohol rats consistently chose the lever that would give out consistent rewards.

Human adolescents behave similar to the rats used in the experiments. There is a neurobiological link between alcohol abuse early in life and bad decisions that are made in adulthood.

The region of the brain that is responsible for decision-making takes time to develop. This development continues during adolescence, which is why alcohol use can impact decision-making later in life. Teenage brains have the potential to be permanently changed by alcohol use. Dr. Karen Norber reported that the frequency and intensity of drinking in late adolescence could have long-term effects on adult substance use.

Preventing Teen Drinking   

In the United States, where the legal age to drink is 21, researchers believe that delaying the legal use of alcohol is one key to preventing substance abuse in the future of children.

Researchers have discovered that when individuals could legally purchase alcohol before the age of 21, they were more inclined to have drinking and drug problems later on in life. The lower the drinking age, the more likely an individual will experience problems with drugs and alcohol in the future.

Even if early drinking didn’t increase risk factors later in life there is no denying the immediate risks that are associated with adolescent alcohol abuse. Alcohol affects self-control and depresses the central nervous system. This will lower an individual’s inhibitions and impair judgment.

Adolescent alcohol abuse can also lead to binge drinking later in life. Binge drinking is defined as having more than five drinks on one occasion. More than 35 percent of alcoholic adults were binge drinking by the age of 19.

Parental Drinking

According to the medial news website ScienceDaily, parental drinking plays a significant role in early drinking by adolescents. Parents who drink directly influence their adolescent children. When the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics examined the relationship between the drinking behavior of parents and their children they discovered that there was little question that a drinking parent influenced alcohol use.

In addition to influencing adolescents’ early alcohol abuse, parental drinking also affects a person’s ability to parent responsibly. Parental alcohol use, intoxication, and other problems related to substance abuse are far from healthy behaviors, and can lead to a range of problems within the family.

Other Influences

Parental drinking isn’t the only thing that may influence a child to start drinking. Marketing efforts such as alcohol-branded apparel is also linked to early drinking. Children who wear hats, t-shirts, or other items that promote alcoholic beverages are much more likely to start drinking and become binge drinkers.

In the United States, roughly three million adolescents own alcohol-branded merchandise. The most common merchandise owned by adolescents with alcohol branding is clothing, hats, key chains, posters, pens, and shot glasses.

It is critical that the early initiation of alcohol use is prevented. Each day, 5,000 children under the age of 16 start drinking. Children that start drinking this young are four times more likely to abuse alcohol as an adult and become alcohol-dependent. They are also much more likely to be involved in alcohol related violence or car accidents. Alcohol continues to be the main drug of choice among youth, and underage drinking is a prominent public health problem.

Although more than one million adolescents meet the criteria of alcohol dependence and abuse, many never receive treatment. It is vital that young people who suffer from alcoholism get the help they need in order to lead healthy drug-free lives.Teen Alcohol Abuse is a Serious Problem

As a teenager, there is often a good deal of peer pressure to use alcohol and other drugs at parties or in other social situations. While many teens see their alcohol abuse as just for fun or as a way to experiment, this seemingly casual abuse can lead to greater problems such as damage to brain development, liver damage, and the increased likelihood of risky behaviors. Alcohol abuse can be just as serious as the abuse of other drugs and can have consequences that are just as serious. Teenage alcohol abuse can even result in alcohol addiction and can lead to a life of struggle and hardship.

In addition to the threat of addiction, alcohol abuse represents a significant threat to the safety and physical and emotional well being of teenage drinkers. Because alcohol abuse is such a serious problem among teens, parents must learn to recognize the signs of this alcohol abuse to protect their children from the dangerous consequences of teenage alcohol abuse.

Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse

If parents make themselves knowledgeable about the pressures and dangers that their children face on a daily basis, they will be much more prepared to prevent teenage drug and alcohol abuse, but will also help them to be more prepared to help their child if they develop a problem with alcohol abuse and addiction. By recognizing the signs of alcohol abuse and addiction, parents can help their child before they do serious harm to themselves or to others.

Some of the signs of teen alcohol abuse include:

  • Physical evidence of drugs and drug paraphernalia
  • Behavior problems and poor grades in school
  • Hostility, irritability, or change in level of cooperation around the house
  • Lying or increased evasiveness about after school or weekend whereabouts
  • Decrease in interest in personal appearance
  • Physical changes, such as bloodshot eyes, runny nose, frequent sore throats, rapid weight loss
  • Changes in mood, eating, or sleeping patterns
  • Dizziness and memory problems

By being aware of the signs of teen alcohol abuse and addiction, parents can recognize if their children are in danger and if their children need help to overcome their substance abuse problems. If your teen has a problem with alcohol abuse or addiction, it is important to find a treatment program that will help them to deal with their alcohol abuse so that they can live healthy and productive lives.

Effects of Teen Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Commonly, teenagers fail to appreciate the serious consequences that can result from alcohol abuse and addiction. While teens often view alcohol use as casual way to have fun, there are many physical and emotional consequences of alcohol abuse. By abusing drugs and alcohol teens are putting themselves and those around them in danger. Some of the physical consequences of teen alcohol abuse include liver damage, brain damage, cancer, and immune system problems.

Alcohol abuse is especially dangerous for teenagers because alcohol abuse can hinder the development of a teenager’s brain. Teenagers are at an important point in their brain development, and the abuse of alcohol can damage this brain development. This brain damage can result in a variety of mental and emotional problems later in life.

Teen alcohol abuse can also result in a variety of dangerous behaviors that can put teenagers at risk for serious injury, or even death. When teens are under the influence of alcohol, they are much more likely to engage in dangerous activities such as drinking and driving, or engaging in risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex. Because alcohol hinders judgment, a normally level-headed and practical teen can make bad decisions that can permanently change their lives and the lives of others.

While many teens see alcohol use as a way to have fun at parties or to fit in with their peers, there are much more serious consequences that are a result of this seemingly harmless choice to drink. Not only do teens put their health at risk, but they may also be putting their lives, and their futures, at risk.

Where to Find Help for Teen Alcohol Addiction

There are a variety of treatment programs throughout the country that are designed to help teens overcome alcohol abuse and addiction. These programs focus on the behavioral and emotional issues that are a result of alcohol abuse and addiction in teens, and give teenagers the tools that will be necessary to overcome their substance abuse problems.

As a parent or a friend of a teen with an alcohol abuse problem, getting help for that individual can help them to get their life back on track. Teen alcohol abuse can result in a series of negative health consequences and can lead to poor judgment that can affect a teen’s life forever. If you or someone you love has a problem with teen alcohol abuse, it is important to get help before they damage their lives beyond repair.

Teen alcohol abuse and addiction is not a trivial matter and can affect a person for the rest of their life. In order to help a friend or loved on to overcome their problems with alcohol, call to find a treatment program that will help them to regain control and will provide them with the tools to lead a healthy and happy life.