It’s hard to think ” teen alcoholism” when looking at a happy healthy young man or woman. It’s much easier to think about vibrant, well-adjusted student athletes with a glorious future ahead of them.
The fact is that some people are born with the disease of alcoholism (or at least a predisposition for it). When one of these people starts drinking in their teens you get…well a teenage alcoholic.
The Facts About Teen Alcoholism
I have read some pretty scary statistics about teenagers and alcohol.
- Teens who start drinking at 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol problems than their 21 year old counterparts.
- Half of all 8th graders has tried alcohol.
- More kids are killed by booze than by all illegal drugs combined.
- More teenagers use alcohol than tobacco or other drugs.
- The chances of developing alcohol dependency decrease by 14% each year of delay in the onset of alcohol use.
Alcohol has long been a central part of the American teenage experience. I started experimenting with alcohol…sneaking one of my dad’s beers…at about 14. All of my friends drank too. And we all lied to our parents about it as well. 🙂
It’s easy to take comfort that your teenager doesn’t use Cocaine or Methamphetamine or prescription drugs . But the facts tell us that alcohol is every bit as dangerous as those other drugs.
Here is another fact (okay, maybe it’s more of an observation)…I have heard many (like hundreds) of alcoholics share that they started drinking in their teens. I have heard maybe 3 share that they started drinking in their twenties.
The Risks of Long Term Drinking
I think we all know the risks of teen alcoholism…many of them are the same as the risks of adult alcoholism. A 16 year old can wrap a car around a tree as easily as a 50 year old can (actually probably easier due to lack of driving experience, but that’s for another time).
Violence and Alcohol
Here is a little math problem for you…
What do you get when you combine Testosterone plus boundless energy plus an invincible attitude? Give up…you get an unpredictable environment. What happens when you add alcohol to the mix? All bets are off.
Yes, teenagers are more likely to get into physical altercations while under the influence of alcohol.
Physical Injury While Drinking
“Watch this…” is the punchline to an old joke about the drunk teenager’s last words.
Thinking back to high school, I remember 4 different trips to the emergency room with friends who were injured while drinking. This doesn’t include a half dozen other incidents that SHOULD have ended up in the ER.
Yes, both teens and adults do dumb things while drinking!
Sexual Activity and its Relationship to Intoxication
- Alcohol use by teens is a strong predictor of both sexual activity and unprotected sex.
- A survey of high school students found that 18% of females and 39% of males thought it was acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is high or drunk.
Yes, everyone gets loosened up a bit after drinking. Hell, that’s why a lot of people drink.
And just for the record…it’s NEVER okay to force sex. NEVER…
Both adults and teens are more prone to violence, engage in riskier sexual activity, and have a proclivity toward injury. So it’s easy to think of teen alcoholics as nothing more than smaller versions of adult alcoholics.
Kids suffering from teen alcoholism are different in a couple of ways.
- They are emotionally unprepared to deal with something as serious as teen alcoholism. (It is widely accepted that alcoholics stop developing emotionally around the time they start drinking in an alcoholic manner.)
- Their ‘invincible’ attitude prevents them from asking for help. (Why do you think they send 19-year-olds to war rather than 30-year-olds?)
- They may not have the broad frame of reference to understand what teen alcoholism could really mean to their life. (They probably haven’t seen a colleague or spouse suffer for years with the disease.)
- They simply have not had the time to develop the coping skill to deal with such a complex physical, emotional, social, and spiritual problem.
If you suspect that your child is suffering from teen alcoholism, you may want to contact an addiction treatment facility that focuses on the unique problems of teen alcoholics.
It’s a bad problem to have, but it’s not the end of the world as long as you address it right away. The good news is that a new freedom waits for your teenager on the other side.