Alcohol abuse among adolescents is an emerging issue in today’s society. The number of adolescents using alcohol is increasing despite the fact that they are below the legal drinking age, which is 21 years (Johnson, Hayes, Brown, Hoo, & Ethier, 2014). A study conducted by the CDC has revealed that people aged below 20 years and above 12 years consume 11% of the total amount of alcohol consumed in the United States (Johnson et al., 2014). The death rate of adolescents that has resulted from alcohol abuse amounted to 4300 in 2010, and there were more than 189,000 visits of adolescents to the emergency room due to effects of alcohol abuse (Johnson et al., 2014). It is important to know the causes and effects of alcohol use among adolescents in order to introduce strategies and recommendations that would tackle alcohol abuse.
Causes of Alcohol Abuse among Adolescents
There are various reasons why adolescents abuse alcohol. The first reason is peer influence (Salous & Omar, 2010). Adolescents are the most vulnerable group to peer influence. Pressure from other adolescents who are already abusing alcohol will make a person either become interested or be compelled to use alcohol. This happens because adolescents try to be compatible with groups of their peers, and they like to have a sense of belonging in the group. Some adolescents develop the interest to abuse alcohol, because others are doing so (Salous & Omar, 2010). This interest to identify oneself with a particular group is the main reason why many adolescents abuse alcohol in America today.
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Curiosity and desire to have adventure is another reason why adolescents abuse alcohol (Salous & Omar, 2010). Adolescents would often spend time drinking merely to fulfill their desire of knowing what it feels like to drink alcohol. This experimental adventure eventually becomes alcohol abuse. Sometimes adolescents spend their time drinking to avoid boredom. Alcohol is considered a social drink, and it is used in all avenues of socialization among adolescents. Parties organized by adolescents have a culture of alcohol abuse, and the majority of these adolescents appear in emergency rooms after attending the parties (Johnson et al., 2014).
Environmental influence is another reason of adolescents abusing drugs and alcohol. They grow up observing adults being openly engaged in alcohol abuse without undergoing any criticism. They emulate this behavior as they become older and assimilate alcohol abuse into their own lives. An adolescent whose father or mother is an alcoholic is more likely to start abusing alcohol than an adolescent whose parents do not abuse alcohol (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014). Adolescents also acquire this habit from social media trends, television, cinema, and music (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014). Films produced today and TV advertisements portray alcohol as prestigious. Advertisements for wine or other alcohol drinks are displayed in prestigious settings, thus creating an idea that alcohol is a sign of prestige. This stimulates interest and curiosity of adolescents who will occasionally resort to using alcohol.
Stress and challenges of life also contribute to alcohol abuse among adolescents. In particular, stress from academic struggles, disappointment from teenage relationships, family problems, such as divorce of parents, or negligence of parents may encourage teenagers to turn to alcohol. When adolescents lack support of their parents, they often choose alcohol to help them relieve the stress and later find themselves engaged in binge drinking that may lead to alcoholism. When adolescents feel abandoned by their families after a divorce of their parents, they use alcohol to console themselves, because they feel that drinking helps them to relieve their pain.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse among Adolescents
The abuse of alcohol has a number of negative effects. They may be considered with regard to an individual and to the society in general.
Effects on an Individual
The first effect is physical damage of one’s health (World Health Organization [WHO], 2014). Alcohol abuse has dire effects on a human body. It can cause immediate temporary effects, such as cognitive impairment and dehydration, and long term effects, such as liver cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis can cause a general decline in one’s health, thus making a person predisposed to diabetes and high blood pressure (WHO, 2014). Alcohol abuse can also cause mental illnesses to a person who was initially mentally stable. Cases of substance abuse that induced psychosis have increased in number. The risk for mental illness for a person abusing alcohol is rather high (Briones & Woods, 2013). This happens because alcohol penetrates the blood brain barrier and interferes with biochemical function of the brain, thus causing a mental illness.
Alcohol abuse can cause alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction is defined as dependency on alcohol (WHO, 2014). A person addicted to alcohol can get alcohol withdrawal symptoms if he or she does not consume alcohol, as one’s body has become alcohol dependent. This alcohol dependence also increases the financial strain of adolescents and increases the severity of adverse health effects from alcohol abuse. Addiction causes economic strain on the adolescent, as money is needed to purchase alcohol. Adolescents may even resort to criminal means to acquire money, hence further increasing stress in their lives.
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Effects on Society
Alcohol abuse also has negative effects on the community and society on a global scale. First, it increases the prevalence of crime in society (Salous & Omar, 2010). Abuse of alcohol compromises cognitive functioning of people’s brain. Alcohol impairs the reasoning of a person, and crimes committed under the influence of alcohol are increasing in number. Rape, murder, and robbery are the most frequent crimes committed under alcohol influence (Salous & Omar, 2010).
Alcohol abuse among adolescents has a negative strain on economy of the society (Salous & Omar, 2010). The adolescents who abuse alcohol neglect their studies, and their academic performance becomes poor. These adolescents fail to maintain places in colleges and universities; some of them become alcohol addicts, hence increasing the percentage of the dependent population. Furthermore, innovation initiatives among adolescents substantially reduce. Adolescents are ambitious and productive in relation to new ideas. However, this innovativeness is neglected due to engagement in alcohol abuse.
Abuse of alcohol can also increase prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, syphilis, HPV, gonorrhea, genital warts, hepatitis B, and herpes simplex virus (WHO, 2014). This happens because alcohol abuse impairs cognitive functioning of a human brain. This may lead to engagement in irresponsible sex and sexual assault crimes, such as rape. Irresponsible sex, accordingly, increases the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS (WHO, 2014). This will make the struggle against HIV/AIDS difficult and increase the prevalence of new infections.
Recommendations to Address Alcohol Abuse among Adolescents
Nevertheless, the prevalence of alcohol abuse among adolescents can be remedied. Certain strategies and recommendations can be implemented to address this burning issue. Educating the adolescent and the public in general about the problem of alcohol abuse and its effects to a person and the society may help reduce its prevalence (Beker, Isralowitz, & Singer, 2014). Many adolescents engage in alcohol abuse before the effects of alcohol can be clearly known to them. Their education on the issue will improve awareness of the problems associated with alcohol abuse.
Enforcing the laws governing distribution and consumption of alcohol among underage people will reduce the number of incidences when alcohol is sold to underage buyers. Alcohol distributors who sell alcohol to underage clients should be arrested and prosecuted. This will increase vigilance among the distributors to comply with the law as far as underage purchase of alcohol is concerned. Adolescents who are involved in abuse of alcohol before the legal age should be punished within the confines of the law. This will help reduce the number of adolescents involved in alcohol abuse.
Encouraging parents and other adults in society to be role models to the younger generation will also help address the issue of alcohol abuse among adolescents (Beker et al., 2014). This will happen by means of educating the adult on the importance of being role models to the adolescent. As a result, adolescents will grow up learning good health habits from their parents. Parents should also practice good parenting towards their children. They should give advice to adolescent children regarding social habits, such as alcohol consumption, as this will help the latter to make better choices when confronted with peer pressure.
Introduction of good guidance and counseling programs in schools will help reduce alcohol consumption among the adolescent. Guiding and counseling programs will help students handle the difficulties they encounter by relieving their stress and finding different ways of managing it (Beker et al., 2014). If they develop a managing mechanism to pressure to perform academically, adolescents will be able to avoid drug abuse as a choice to relieve stress. Guiding and counseling will also help adolescents who have family problems. Adolescents who are already abusing alcohol will also benefit from these programs by being informed on best steps to stop abusing alcohol.
Alcohol abuse is an issue that is raising concerns about the future of youth in today’s society. The factors that encourage adolescents to use drugs, such as peer pressure, curiosity for adventure, stressful events in their lives, and influence from the environment, should be intervened to prevent the negative effects of alcohol abuse. These effects should be manifested to both the adolescent and the community. Strategies, such as health education to adolescents, enforcement of laws that govern alcohol consumption, setting role models in the society, and introduction of effective guidance and counseling programs in schools and community, will help address the problem of alcohol consumption among the adolescents.