One of the most frequently used drugs by teenagers in the United States is alcohol. It has been observed that about half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis and 14 percent of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year.
A victim of alcohol abuse shows personality traits such as hostility, aggression, impulsivity, unpredictability, depression, dependency, low self-esteem, immaturity, anxiety and instability.
Several research studies have indicated that parents are the strongest influence on adolescent use of alcohol. The degree of alcohol use is directly proportional to the level of control exerted by parents in the relationship. A strong bonding and good communication between parents and children goes a long way in establishing a healthy relationship. Supervision and disagreements are taken in a positive spirit by adolescents only when there is respect and trust in the relationship. Also, a person’s attitude towards life is largely affected by the family atmosphere. The way adults relate to alcohol within the family environment can have a significant and enduring impact on the children. Teenagers tend to emulate their parents in every aspect of life, consumption of alcohol being no exception. Children of alcoholics are at significantly higher risk than their peers for developing alcoholism themselves. Feelings of rejection, lack of parental affection and emotional tension may also lead to excessive drinking habits. For some teenagers, the onset of alcohol intake is a way of declaring their independence from parents.
The second most important aspect of alcohol abuse in teenagers is peer pressure. The influence of peers during the teenage years is extremely predominant. Peer groups influence one’s personality in a large way, especially when there is lack of support from the family. Adolescents resort to alcohol for reasons such as curiosity, experimentation, identifying with a certain group, need to establish a separate identity and emotional or psychological independence, to relieve boredom, as part of a ‘feel good syndrome’, relaxation, a boost to self-confidence, for better communication with the opposite sex and to get a taste of adulthood.
Risk factors are considered to be those precursors that increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing alcohol related problems. Some of the psychosocial risk factors that could lead to alcohol abuse are problems with identity formation, persistent academic underachievement, emotional detachment, difficulties in developing responsible autonomy, persistent isolation from peers and involvement in delinquent activity.
Some of the most common symptoms of alcohol abuse in teenagers are evident in habits such as lying, stealing, making excuses, staying alone in the room for long hours, mood swings, change in peer group, becoming verbally or physically abusive toward others, having items in their possession that are connected to alcohol use and the smell of alcohol on their breath or body. Alcohol abuse has drastic effects on a youth’s personality. These are marked by lack of attention; anxiety; depression; increased susceptibility towards accidents, crime and suicide; engaging in unprotected sexual activity and usage of drugs like cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
Adequate parental supervision and clear communication by parents has been found to reduce the consumption of alcohol in teenagers. It is important to channelize the energy of children towards positive goals such co-curricular activities. Stress management techniques also aid in building self confidence so that one is able to cope with different situations in life and refrain from all vices.
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