Teen alcoholism is a problem that has been plaguing the United States for many decades now. The legal age for alcohol consumption is twenty-one years old in every state of the United States, but this law is commonly broken. The fact that it has not been strictly enforced caused an outbreak of alcohol consumption between minors all over, and because of this, we have been accepting teenage drinking more than ever. The problem lies in the lack of law enforcement, the acceptance by parents and guardians, and the overall attitude of teenagers themselves.
Although there are many ways to attempt to treat alcoholism, we find few solutions to be effective (Cristol, 2002). Alcoholism is defined as a disorder characterized by the excessive consumption of and dependence on alcoholic beverages, leading to physical and psychological harm and impaired social and vocational functioning. Alcohol is a huge problem in high school and in college. Twenty-one may be the legal drinking age, but some how minors find a way to get a hold of alcohol. People as young as fifteen are able to get their hands on an alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is said to be the chosen drug among high school and college students.
Underage drinkers have a tendency to drink more then the general population. It is said that high school students spend approximately $4. 2 billion annually on alcohol. This money is spent on 430 gallons of alcoholic beverages, and 4 million cans of beer. The type of school, location, the ethnic and gender makeup plays a role in the amount of drinking that occurs among students (USA Today[a], 2003). Studies show that students drink more when they are in a group, which speaks to peer influences. When it comes to drinking at parties there is no legal age so to speak.
When someone goes to a party they don’t get carded, they get a cup. Studies show that students between the ages of 16-21 drink more then those that are over 21. Statistics show that the younger the person the more he or she drinks. Forty one percent of students report to binge drinking, and nearly four percent drink daily. Binge drinking is defined as four drinks for a women in one sitting, and five drinks for a male in one sitting. Students that binge drink have even more problems then students who don’t. Binge drinkers are more likely to have hangovers and engage themselves in unplanned sexual activity.
There are endless consequences that come with drinking. A range of problems occur due to alcohol consumption. The most popular problem that occurs with drinking is academic problems, others include things such as trauma, date rape, recklessness, vandalism and pregnancy in women. In a recent study 56,000 students reported a slip in their grades. Students went from an A to D’s and F’s, their GPA’s dropped which will effects their future career plans as well as any scholarships they are receiving or attempting to receive (MADD[a], 2004). Alcoholism is the most common drug abuse problem in the United States.
Eleven million Americans suffer from it. This abuse occurs in several different ways: loss of control over drinking, getting drunk daily, or drinking every weekend. It is usually marked by withdrawal symptoms and by increasing tolerance for alcohol. It is a chronic, progressive, relapsing brain disease. Five percent of Americans die of alcoholism and ninety-five percent of alcoholics die of alcoholism. Its physical, social, and psychological effects tend to get progressively worse (Song, 2003).
Is alcoholism genetic or is it due to lack of self-control? Through research, Dr. Robert R. Perkinson attests that alcoholism is nothing to be ashamed of because it is genetic. There are different genetic types of alcoholism. Perkinson distinguished two forms of alcoholism. One type is an environmental related type of alcoholism, associated with recurrent alcohol abuse, but without criminality in the biological parents. The other type was found to be highly heritable and was associated with alcohol abuse in the biological parents (Cristol, 2002). The environmental alcoholism occurs in both men and women, has a later age of onset, is less severe, and is not often associated with social problems such as fighting and arrests.
The second type is known as the male-limited alcoholism, occurs mainly in males and has an earlier age of onset, a more severe course, and more alcohol-related social problems (Cristol, 2002). An alcoholic is not the only person affected. Family members are often drawn into this life of darkness. Not only is the divorce rate higher among alcoholics, but research completed by the American Institute for Prevention of Medicine notes that children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics and have long lasting emotional problems (Cristol, 2002).
Also, alcohol consumption has devastating results when mixed with the operation of a motor vehicle. The more a person drinks, the more their ability to operate a motor vehicle becomes more dangerous. After just one drink, a driver can lose their ability to perform the task to drive a car. In fact, a driver will become illegally intoxicated and can be arrested for attempting to operate a motor vehicle. In every state there is a legal to how much alcohol you can have in your body if youre driving. If you drink and drive you can loses your drivers license and even go to jail.
Traffic crashes is the effect of driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, too. More than 5,000 young people die every year in car crashes and 1,000 more than injured. There is another reason why teens are in danger after they drink and driving. Teens drive faster and dont control the car as well as an experienced driver, especially after when they drink (USA Today[b], 2003). Though there are many ways to go about treating alcoholism, the best way is the confront the issue and make yourself quit.
It is a tedious and frustrating thing to do, so there are many groups and organizations out there to help you get through it. Alcoholism is a very serious problem that usually takes years of counseling and support to overcome. The physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol make it extremely difficult for one to quit. At one time, doctors believed that alcoholics deserved this punishment for indulging in alcohol. However, today we know that a person who goes through several periods of withdrawal symptoms can end up with permanent brain damage (Steiner, 2003).
There are many ways to treat the problem of teen alcoholism and to prevent this problem from happening to teens at all. According to Derek Miller, a professor of adolescent psychiatry at Northwestern University, parents who set a good example for their children is a good way to prevent their children from abusing alcohol. He says that children tend to mimic their parents, and if the parents dont drink, their children probably wont either. Others say that knowledge is the key to help teens with drinking problems. They say that learning the truth will help teens with their problems (Steiner, 2003).
Many teens are not able to stop on their own so they need someone to help them. Because teens need someone to help them, there have been many self-help programs and organizations set up to help. For many teens self-help programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) might be the best way to get help. In Alcoholics Anonymous, people help each other with their drinking problems by offering each other support and advice. Alcoholics Anonymous now has about 2 million members worldwide, and in the United States over 50,000 of these groups meet regularly.
Being around others who are going through the same hardships that you are is both comforting and encouraging for those who want to stop abusing alcohol. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, many churches and synagogues may have self-help groups to help people with their alcoholism problems. At many alcohol treatment groups they ask you to take a simple test to see if you have a problem with alcohol. They ask you not to drink when everyone else is drinking and then to see if you feel comfortable like that (USA Today[a], 2003).
Also, today we are seeing more programs like Student Assistance Programs where schools get involved and help teens with their alcohol problems. Schools are trying to help in anyway they can now. In fact there is a new program in Minnesota called Sobriety High, where young teen alcoholics can recover and get help with others of their same age. Sobriety High is a 6-year high school. The students there et no homework but they still get the same amount of education as all other public high school students (Steiner, 2003).
Hopefully, by using these alcohol treatment programs and all other means to help stop teenagers from drinking we will cut down on the problem of underage drinking and prevent many problems that may occur due to underage drinking. Maybe by stopping the problem of teen drinking, we will stop other problems such as crime as well. For example, in California it was proven that an increase of alcoholism treatment results in a decrease in crime. In the past few years the problem of teen drinking has started to decrease, but we need to make sure it continues to do so in the future (USA Today[a], 2003).