Alcohol consumption has become a deliberate affair for many American adolescents. While all contemporary societies condemn underage drinking, alcohol still plays a central role in the life of numerous teens in the United States. However, alcoholism is a serious public health problem, especially among the youth who are at an enormous health and safety risk. Drinking is a major form of substance abuse that has assumed endemic proportions in the U.S.
Although the consequences of drinking can affect anyone, irrespective of age, gender, race or ethnicity, underage drinking may be the root cause of serious issues such as aggressive behavior, injuries, violence, property damage and even death. Among the causative factors that lead to teen drinking, the principal ones are related to peer pressure, the ease of availability and risk-taking behaviors.
Effects of underage drinking
Brain development is an ongoing process and adolescence is the phase when the maximum brain development takes place. Therefore, any addictive behavior in the formative years leaves a long lasting impression in the brain circuitry as evidenced from a 2014 study in which rats were subjected to alcohol doses equivalent to the amount of alcohol in a binge-drinking teen. The study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research showed that there was a considerable damage in the hippocampal region of the brain of the experimental rats. Hippocampus is associated with learning and memory. The researchers found that instead of a full growth of nerve cells, there was an abnormal growth showing cognitive damage.
In adolescents, excessive activity in the amygdala region of the brain is responsible for risk-taking behavior like binge drinking and substance abuse, as found in most teenagers. Previous studies have shown that early-age alcohol drinking significantly increases the risks of alcohol abuse and dependency in later life. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), teenagers who start drinking before the age of 15 face five times the risk of developing alcohol-related dependency in adult life, as compared to teenagers who had their first drink at the age of 21.
It has been estimated that 11 percent of the alcohol produced in America is being consumed by the underage drinkers, as young as 12-year-olds. Binge drinking is a commonly found vice in young adults, especially in boys aged 9-13 years and girls below the age of 17 who consume three drinks in a session. The limits are slightly higher for teen boys aged 14 years and above, for whom four drinks per session constitute binge drinking. Binge drinking among teens poses a significant health risk, as they are more vulnerable to suffer from chronic alcohol dependency, as compared to adults.
Listed below are some of the common problems associated with underage drinking:
- Automobile accidents because of impaired judgment and temporary blackouts while driving
- Alcohol poisoning
- Sexual assault
- Unintentional injuries
- Higher risk for tobacco use
- Suicidal tendencies
- Higher susceptibility to abuse other drugs
Road to recovery
Addiction to any substance can have debilitating effects on a person’s life as well as impact his or her relations with family and friends. Alcohol abuse among youngsters is a global malaise but timely treatment including detox and sessions with a trained therapist can go a long way in nipping the problem in the bud. Known to cause severe conditions, such as alcohol poisoning, neurotoxicity, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), liver failure, and the likes, alcohol addiction can prove to be fatal.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from any alcohol-related problem, chat online or call at our 24/7 Alcohol Addiction Get Help Helpline at 866-281-3014 to know about the best alcohol addiction treatment centers in your vicinity.