parent’s nightmare. They are almost
blindsided when they learn their child is an alcoholic. They never saw it
coming. But it is more common that you
think, as alcohol plays a part in so much teenage deaths, either by auto
accident, or suicide or homicide. The
fact is, alcohol is usually a contributing factor in all three major causes of
death for teens and young adults.
The disease of
alcoholism doesn’t just happen. There
are contributing factors and one of the major ones is the parents. Teenagers are far more likely, some four
times more likely, to develop the disease if their parents are alcoholics. It stands to reason. Not only is there a genetic tie, but there is
a very strong environmental tie to the disease.
Call it the old nature/nurture argument, but alcoholism is both. Mom and dad may have been drinkers for many
years, but if a teenager, say a 15 year-old, starts drinking alcohol on a
regular basis, not only is that teen likely to develop the disease of
alcoholism, but he/she is also likely to try other drugs.
Parents don’t have to
be drinkers for their kids to struggle with teenage alcoholism.
Even if the
parents aren’t drinkers, kids will be kids and they can cave to peer
pressure. Even high school parties may
have a keg of beer, and some parents even buy it for their teenager. Of course, not every teenager who takes a
drink is going to become an alcoholic, but the percentage of chance for that
happening rises when the child is 15 or younger, and conversely it falls if the
person waits until 21 to take that first drink.
Teenage brains and
alcohol don’t go well together
alcohol do not mix. Alcohol will dull the senses and impair reasoning, so an
otherwise level-headed teen can make some seriously bad choices when alcohol is
used. Anywhere there is a teen pregnancy, you can lay odds that alcohol was involved
somehow. But there are many warning
signs that parents can be looking for.
Kids who might
be considered at risk are the ones who may not be sociable or outgoing and tend
to be loners. Depression sometimes comes
to mind as being a major contributor to a teen turning to alcohol, because when
they take that first drink they like they way they feel. Alcohol becomes a coping mechanism for life.
Regardless of the reasons for a teen using alcohol, there are signs of things
beginning to go badly.
Watch out if their
grades start to slip!
An otherwise good student might have a
period of time when the grades start to slip for no particular reason. Mom and dad ask why, but don’t really get a
straight answer, other than a shrug of the shoulders and the classic and
cryptic, “I don’t know” response. Are
they losing interest in school, or is the subject matter above their head, or
is there a bad teacher to blame? If parents look carefully, they will see that
many times alcohol is the culprit, as the dulling of the mind contributes to
the lack of enthusiasm for learning.
They may also loose interest in their friends, which is a
sure sign of trouble with a teenager.
They may neglect themselves physically and not show any interest in
clothing trends or proper grooming.
Teens are socially conscious, so these are indicators. Teens will often lose interest in sports or
other extra-curricular activities, electing to keep more to themselves and not
hang with their friends. Another sure
sign of trouble is their hanging with an entirely new group of friends, maybe
the kids that like to drink, or smoke marijuana.
does have symptoms if you’re watching for them.
As the disease
of teenage alcoholism progresses, and understand that teens are very
susceptible to it because they don’t necessarily understand that they can’t
drink large amounts of alcohol and still function, and they are in jeopardy
because their brains are not yet fully matured, a teen might withdraw entirely.
They might sleep too much and become lethargic, not make it to school on time,
or skip school entirely. The disease consumes adults to the point where the
only daily activity that matters is drinking, and so this is amplified in the
life of a teenager, who does not have the frame of reference to make choices,
the life experience to determine the proper direction to go.
High school kids
who get into the drinking habit also run the risk of drunk driving. Adults make terrible choices after drinking,
so teens are going to make terrible decisions.
Traffic fatalities amount young people are most often tied to alcohol
use. Drunk driving is the biggest cause
of traffic deaths for young people 15-20.
Imagine the cause of death being drunk driving and they aren’t even of
legal age! That age group doubles that of
people over 21!
target teens with their ads!
pounded by alcohol ads on television and in the print media. Beer ads always feature young people, cool
people, enjoying their hip friends. It’s
an image that is seared into the teenage brain, especially among males. Drink the right kind of vodka, the right kind
of rum, the right kind of wine and you will be cool and have lots of
women. Beer and alcohol beverage
industry executives know how to sell their product. The big lie is that beer companies don’t
advertise to children. Who else would
buy into the message that drinking a certain beer will improve their lives?
Robs everything from
is a dreadful disease that robs a person of his/her humanity and shreds what
should be happy and productive chapters in a person’s life. Granted, only one in nine will become an
alcoholic after prolonged exposure to the drug, but it is a drug that causes so
many other physical ailments and maladies. Alcohol gets into every pour of the
body and does damage. While there is no
cure, despite the claims of some, alcoholism can be managed through treatment
and recovery. This is a difficult
process with teens because they do not fully understand what is happening and
the ramifications of the disease.
understand the disease of teenage alcoholism to help prevent it.
But parents need to understand the disease, its impact on
their child and the necessary steps to getting that child into treatment. Left unchecked, the disease will ruin the
life of a once promising teenager, but the upside to treatment and recovery is
hopefully a long, healthy and productive life.