What are the risks of alcohol abuse to teenagers?
We have all seen the televised reports of spring break in Fort Lauderdale, Cancun, or Padre Island. MTV regularly depicts scantily clad teenagers dancing, drinking and partying at these beach resorts. What is shown less frequently, however, are all the times that teens are using drugs and alcohol back home in the course of their normal lives. Until I retired, I worked at a high school, and know that it is not unusual for the staff to send kids home because they have shown up at school with drugs or alcohol in their possession. Once, I even had a student overdose on drugs and pass out right into my arms! Fortunately, she survived. I know first-hand the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse in teens, and also realize that many parents remain in denial for years that their child has a problem. Below are some of the reasons that all of us should be concerned about drug and alcohol abuse in teens.
Teens are naive about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse
First, many teens are unaware of the dangers of alcohol and drugs. The police liaison officer at our school has reported to the staff that some teens hold "trail mix" parties. At these events, teens bring a variety of drugs that they have stolen from their parents, grandparents and other relatives and dump them into a bowl at the party. Then, each guest grabs a handful of the capsules and tablets and takes them … they don't even know what they are consuming! ADHD medications are particularly popular, because most of them are mild amphetamines. Also popular are tranquilizers, pain killers and similar medications. Sadly, the students have no idea what they are taking, or how lethal such a combination can be. To make matters worse, they often down them with alcohol.
Even when teens avoid drugs, they are often completely unaware of the dangers of excess alcohol. Many of them have never heard of alcohol poisoning, and don't know that binge drinking can cause sudden death.
Teens Do Not Know the Risks of Alcohol and Drug Abuse
There are other concerns with alcohol and drug abuse, as well. Alcohol is a depressant, and teens who are already depressed are more tempted to attempt suicide when under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol consumption can also cause teens to have memory lapses, and heavy drinkers frequently have problems in school. Teens who drink are more likely to engage in high-risk sex, or be raped. Because they are often less aware of their surroundings, they are also more vulnerable to being assaulted or robbed.
Teens Do Not Worry about Drinking and Driving
Teens are also in danger of having an accident if they drink and drive. While raising my own children, I knew of several of their friends who died in drunk-driving accidents. This is a terrible tragedy not only for the teens, but for the families they leave behind. The problem is so serious, that in some states, teens caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lose their driver's license.
Parents Often Are Not Aware of the Risk the Take
If you have ever considered providing alcohol to your own teenage children, or their friends, you should know that it is against the law in most parts of the United States. If someone dies as a result of a teenager who drank alcohol that you provided, you could be held responsible.
Parents often don't realize how much chaos can be brought into their own lives if they allow their teen to drink or use drugs. If you have a teen who is already engaged in these activities, and it is creating chaos for you, you may want to attend an Alanon meeting or purchase Alanon literature from Amazon. You will find that this program is a tremendous help in dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in your children.
Teen Alcohol Abuse can cause Addiction Problems in Later Life
As a long-time member of Alanon, an organization for the friends and families of people who have a problem with alcohol or drug abuse, I have always been told that the younger a person is when they begin to use drugs or alcohol, the more likely they will be to have substance abuse problems later in life. This is not a life that you would wish on anyone.
As parents are educated, I hope that we will raise more teens against drugs and alcohol. These are dangerous substances and, with family and community support, many teens will lead happier, healthier lives if we can help them abstain as long as possible. Set a good example for your friends and children. Parents should also avoid drugs and handle alcohol responsibly. Finally, pass along these facts, to the teens you love!
If you want to learn more about dealing with substance abuse and other issues for for teens, you may also want to read:
A Helpful Book for Parents
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