Article written by: Abdul Mateen Khan
Today in the world, drinking is increasing very fast in teenagers. The average age of an American girl when she has her first drink is 13; for a boy, it is 11. Young people drink who are more likely to be the victims of violent crime, be involved in alcohol-related traffic accidents, and to have depression and anxiety. Other risky behaviors too are involved in early drinking. Young people, who start alcohol at the age of 21 or before, are more likely to be:
- Involved in violent behavior
- An attempt was suicide
- Engage in unprotected sex or multiple partners to have sex
- Develop alcohol problems later in life
Factors affecting risk of developing a drinking problem
A number of factors influence a teen or young adult’s drinking behavior and whether it will become a problem. These include;
- Race and ethnicity. Some racial groups, American Indians: such as Native Alaskans and for example, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction.
- A Teen with an alcoholic parent or sibling is four times more likely to develop a problem with alcohol than someone without a family history.
- The presence of mental health disorders. Often alcohol problems go hand in hand with mental health problems: such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
- Personality traits. Teenagers believe alcohol makes it easier to socialize; for example, they tend to drink more than those who do not believe that their spirit loosens social inhibitions.
- Influence of family and peers. Teens are at greater risk for developing alcohol related problems when alcohol is readily available at home or among their peer group.
- Men are more likely to drink heavily than women, but women at lower levels become addicted and in shorter duration of use.
Dangers of drinking while young
The years between 18 and 25 years are a time of great change, as teenagers spread their wings and leave home, many of them for the first time. Although these can be exciting years, the widespread use of alcohol means that years can be risky too. The highest prevalence of problem drinking occurs among young adults aged 18 to 25 years old, almost 42% of those admitted to binge drinking at least once a month (consuming five or more drinks in rapid succession for men, four or more for women).
Many of us usually think of the university as the environment in which the elderly and adolescents under 20-somethings drink heavily. However, several studies show that excessive drinking is widespread among young adults, regardless of whether or not they attend college. College students tend to drink less frequently than non-students, but when they do imbibe-at parties, they tend to drink more.
Frequent use of alcohol among adolescents and young adults is alarming for several reasons;
• Alcohol is a major factor in fatal crashes. About a third of drivers aged 21 to 24 who died in a car accident in 2009 had a blood alcohol level high above the legal limit.
• Drinking can have lasting effects on health. Some researchers believe that excessive alcohol consumption at this age, when the brain is still developing, may cause lasting changes in brain functions like memory, coordination and motor skills at least among susceptible individuals.
• Drinking can lead to sexual assault and rape. Each year, approximately 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of sexual assault related to alcohol.
How to recognize and treat alcohol poisoning
Binge drinkers are eight times more likely than other college students to:
- Miss classes
- Fall behind in schoolwork
- Be injured
Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, drinking too much, too fast, slows some bodily functions (such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing) to a dangerous level, causing the drinker to lose consciousness.
Possible signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Unconscious or semiconscious state
- Slow respiration—eight or fewer breaths per minute, or lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds
- Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
- A strong odor of alcohol on the breath and coming from the skin
How to talk to teens about responsible drinking
These are some of the other important reasons:
- Alcohol has harmful effects on developing brains and bodies.
- For adolescents ages 15 to 20, alcohol is implicated in more than a third of driver fatalities resulting from automobile accidents and about two-fifths of drowning.
- Drinking interferes with good judgment, leading young people into risky behavior and making them vulnerable to sexual coercion.
- Teenagers who use alcohol and tobacco are at greater risk of using other drugs.
- Teenagers who drink are more likely to develop behavioral problems, including stealing, fighting, and skipping school.
- Underage drinking is illegal.
Start the conversation early
While most people recognize the importance of discussing alcohol with kids, they aren’t always sure when to initiate this discussion. Adolescents are often nervous and confused as they face their first opportunities to try alcohol and are often interested to hear your thoughts on the subject. Set the stage early by letting your teenager know that he or she can talk to you about anything, without judgment or lecturing.
Open up and listen
Ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers without interrupting.
- Talk openly about your family history. If your family has had problems with alcohol, your child should know about it. Be open about your own experiences, too.
- Set clear expectations, and communicate your values. Youngsters are less likely to drink when they know that parents and other important adults in their lives have strong feelings about it.
- Control your emotions. If you hear something that upsets you, take a few deep breaths and express your feelings in a positive way.
- Ask about your teenager’s friends. Express an interest in getting to know them better. Getting to know these friends and their parents will help you understand your teenager’s world.
By Abdul Mateen Khan
Nishan Rehab Multan