David B Smith asked:
As unfortunate as it is to see a shabby old man lying prostrate on the park bench sleeping off his alcohol intake, a consistently drunken young person is an even more tragic sight.
Alcoholism is understood as addiction to alcohol, wherein a person has become dependent on alcohol in order to feel ok. This sort of dependency takes varied aounts of time to establish, which is why we might expect to encounter it only amongst mature grown ups. Regrettably though heavy alcohol intake is often part of teenage culture, and excessive amounts of alcohol, even in the short term, do cause a chemical imbalance in the brain which can lead to alcohol dependency.
Even moderate amounts of alcohol affects chemicals in the body such as the gamma-aminobutyric acids, responsible for inhibiting impulsiveness, and glutamate, which stimulates the nervous system. Excessive drinking reduces the body of these chemicals, in the absence of which the body starts to want alcohol. Young bodies may be utterly unprepared for the sort of significance that early-age-onset drinking can .
If a teenager unexpectedly finds himself or herself in a peer group where alcohol consumption is the norm, they may suddenly bombard their system with excessive amounts of alcohol, even if they have never touched the slightest amount of liquor up to that point, in order to gain respect or acceptance in the group. This can unmistakably be very damaging to their health.
Studies suggest that nearly 60% of young people who take up drinking, do so in order to feel more mature! Some will have seen their folks drinking, and will take up the addiction to become like them. More often though nowadays young drinkers will either just be trailing the group or aspiring to emulate some other role model – a sporting hero, rock star or gang leader – for whom hard drinking is a fundamental part of their .
Obviously image and advertising have a lot to do with early-age-onset drinking. Films tend to view tough guys as hard drinkers. The media portrays fun girls as party girls. And obviously the advertising companies behind alcoholic beverages work hard at associating alcohol consumption with popularity and success. For this reason education can be a key factor in helping to restrain the level of alcohol abuse and alcoholism amongst young people.
Input from the home and the school can help create a more balanced understanding of both the advantages and dangers of alcohol consumption. Of course, for teenagers who are driven to resist the authority of home and school, educational programs of this kind can have the opposite affect of that intended, where teenagers will consider their drinking to be a sign of their independence from authority. Ironically of course, such rebellion really only shows a subservience to an alternative authority – namely, that of the advertising magnates who promote alcohol consumption.
As in the case of most disagreeable teenage habits, the peer group is often the key. If your teenage son is part of a peer group that drinks, he will drink too. If he’s part of strict religious group that never let a drop of alcohol pass their lips, you don’t have to worry (about alcohol consumption, at any rate).
Of course there are numerous factors that can lead a young person to drink excessively, and not every teenager who drinks excessively is going to develop an alcohol dependency. Genetics will partially determine this, along with other various physical and psychological factors. But if there is one straightforward thing that a parent can do to divert a teenager who is on the course to alcoholism it is this: change his or her . Send them to a different school. Have them move interstate to stay with your relatives. Send them on a long overseas trip.
Of course, changing the immediate peer group will not always solve the problem, and depending on the age of the teenager, the parents may be powerless to make these sorts of decisions anyway. Remember though that regardless of what happens, while there is life there is always hope. Even long-term alcoholics find healing. And countless teenagers with drinking problems don’t turn into alcoholics.