A lot of kids started drinking around 16 years old. As the years go by, drinking reaches younger and younger people. It’s unfortunate. The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. By age 14, 41 percent of children have had least one drink. The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old.Teens who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. An early age of drinking onset is also associated with alcohol-related violence not only among persons under age 21 but among adults as well. It has been estimated that over three million teenagers are out-and-out alcoholics. Several million more have a serious drinking problem that they cannot manage on their own.
Annually, more than 5,000 deaths of people under age 21 are linked to underage drinking. The three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides — alcohol is a leading factor in all three. Drinking alcoholic beverages beyond one’s capacity to the point of intoxication is a risky behaviour in which most young people get involved at some time. In a survey conducted by the University of the Philippines in 1994, 60 per cent or 5.3 million Filipino youths are said to be drinking alcoholic beverages. About 4.2 million of them are males and 1.1 million are females. The study stated that most of the Filipino teenagers have tried cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. In fact, there are more alcoholic drinkers than smokers. On the average, Filipino youths start drinking alcohol at the age of 16 or 17.
However, there are also many cases when children as young as 12 years old are already drinking alcoholic beverages. About 37 per cent of the respondents in the survey have continued the habit of drinking alcohol while 33 per cent said they only drink alcoholic beverages on special occasions. Some 17 per cent said they have already decided to stop the vice of drinking. The Philippines, drinking is more acceptable among girls than smoking. Nevertheless, it is still the case that it is considered more appropriate for men than for women to drink.
Parents are more lax with boys, giving them more freedom to drink alcohol than their sisters. The teenagers said their family, friends, and the mass media have influenced them to experiment with drinking alcohol. Underscoring the critical role that the family plays in youth behaviours, young people seem to take their cue from their own parents’ attitudes and behaviour. Thus, a boy who grows up with an alcoholic father is more likely to become one himself.
The study indicated that those who are more likely to drink are those:
* who are not living with parents (for example, college students living in dormitories)
* whose parents approve of drinking
* who frequently attending social gatherings
* who enjoy going out to parties, bars and discos
* who do not take part in sports activities
WHY DO SOME ADOLESCENTS DRINK?
Young people try alcohol for many reasons.
* They might be curious, or want to be one of the group. * Some young people drink because it makes them feel older, or because it gives them a certain image among friends. * Some people drink when they go to parties and nightclubs to enjoy themselves more. The alcohol might make them feel more relaxed. * Some people use alcohol to help them sleep or to forget things. * Some people need to drink every day just to get through the day because they are dependent on alcohol.
As children move from adolescence to young adulthood, they encounter dramatic physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes. Developmental transitions, such as puberty and increasing independence, have been associated with alcohol use. So in a sense, just being an adolescent may be a key risk factor not only for starting to drink but also for drinking dangerously.
Risk-Taking—Research shows the brain keeps developing well into the twenties, during which time it continues to establish important communication connections and further refines its function. Scientists believe that this lengthy developmental period may help explain some of the behavior which is characteristic of adolescence—such as their propensity to seek out new and potentially dangerous situations. For some teens, thrill-seeking might include experimenting with alcohol. Developmental changes also offer a possible physiological explanation for why teens act so impulsively, often not recognizing that their actions—such as drinking—have consequences.
Expectancies—How people view alcohol and its effects also influences their drinking behavior, including whether they begin to drink and how much. An adolescent who expects drinking to be a pleasurable experience is more likely to drink than one who does not. An important area of alcohol research is focusing on how expectancy influences drinking patterns from childhood through adolescence and into young adulthood (11–14). Beliefs about alcohol are established very early in life, even before the child begins elementary school (15). Before age 9, children generally view alcohol negatively and see drinking as bad, with adverse effects. By about age 13, however, their expectancies shift, becoming more positive (11,16). As would be expected, adolescents who drink the most also place the greatest emphasis on the positive and arousing effects of alcohol.
Sensitivity and Tolerance to Alcohol—Differences between the adult brain and the brain of the maturing adolescent also may help to explain why many young drinkers are able to consume much larger amounts of alcohol than adults (17) before experiencing the negative consequences of drinking, such as drowsiness, lack of coordination, and withdrawal/hangover effects (18,19). This unusual tolerance may help to explain the high rates of binge drinking among young adults. At the same time, adolescents appear to be particularly sensitive to the positive effects of drinking, such as feeling more at ease in social situations, and young people may drink more than adults because of these positive social experiences (18,19).
Personality Characteristics and Psychiatric Comorbidity—Children who begin to drink at a very early age (before age 12) often share similar personality characteristics that may make them more likely to start drinking. Young people who are disruptive, hyperactive, and aggressive—often referred to as having conduct problems or being antisocial—as well as those who are depressed, withdrawn, or anxious, may be at greatest risk for alcohol problems (20). Other behavior problems associated with alcohol use include rebelliousness (21), difficulty avoiding harm or harmful situations (22), and a host of other traits seen in young people who act out without regard for rules or the feelings of others (i.e., disinhibition) (23–25).
Hereditary Factors—Some of the behavioral and physiological factors that converge to increase or decrease a person’s risk for alcohol problems, including tolerance to alcohol’s effects, may be directly linked to genetics. For example, being a child of an alcoholic or having several alcoholic family members places a person at greater risk for alcohol problems. Children of alcoholics (COAs) are between 4 and 10 times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than are children who have no close relatives with alcoholism. COAs also are more likely to begin drinking at a young age and to progress to drinking problems more quickly. Research shows that COAs may have subtle brain differences which could be markers for developing later alcohol problems. For example, using high-tech brain-imaging techniques, scientists have found that COAs have a distinctive feature in one brainwave pattern (called a P300 response) that could be a marker for later alcoholism risk.
Researchers also are investigating other brainwave differences in COAs that may be present long before they begin to drink, including brainwave activity recorded during sleep as well as changes in brain structure and function. Some studies suggest that these brain differences may be particularly evident in people who also have certain behavioral traits, such as signs of conduct disorder, antisocial personality disorder, sensation-seeking or poor impulse control. Studying how the brain’s structure and function translates to behavior will help researchers to better understand how predrinking risk factors shape later alcohol use. For example, does a person who is depressed drink to alleviate his or her depression, or does drinking lead to changes in his brain that result in feelings of depression?
Other hereditary factors likely will become evident as scientists work to identify the actual genes involved in addiction. By analyzing the genetic makeup of people and families with alcohol dependence, researchers have found specific regions on chromosomes that correlate with a risk for alcoholism. Candidate genes for alcoholism risk also have been associated with those regions. The goal now is to further refine regions for which a specific gene has not yet been identified and then determine how those genes interact with other genes and gene products as well as with the environment to result in alcohol dependence. Further research also should shed light on the extent to which the same or different genes contribute to alcohol problems, both in adults and in adolescents.
Environmental Aspects—Pinpointing a genetic contribution will not tell the whole story, however, as drinking behavior reflects a complex interplay between inherited and environmental factors, the implications of which are only beginning to be explored in adolescents. And what influences drinking at one age may not have the same impact at another. As Rose and colleagues show, genetic factors appear to have more influence on adolescent drinking behavior in late adolescence than in mid-adolescence. Environmental factors, such as the influence of parents and peers, also play a role in alcohol use.
For example, parents who drink more and who view drinking favorably may have children who drink more, and an adolescent girl with an older or adult boyfriend is more likely to use alcohol and other drugs and to engage in delinquent behaviors. Researchers are examining other environmental influences as well, such as the impact of the media. Today alcohol is widely available and aggressively promoted through television, radio, billboards, and the Internet. Researchers are studying how young people react to these advertisements. In a study of 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders, those who found alcohol ads desirable were more likely to view drinking positively and to want to purchase products with alcohol logos (46). Research is mixed, however, on whether these positive views of alcohol actually lead to underage drinking.
Complex behaviors, such as the decision to begin drinking or to continue using alcohol, are the result of a dynamic interplay between genes and environment. For example, biological and physiological changes that occur during adolescence may promote risk-taking behavior, leading to early experimentation with alcohol. This behavior then shapes the child’s environment, as he or she chooses friends and situations that support further drinking. Continued drinking may lead to physiological reactions, such as depression or anxiety disorders, triggering even greater alcohol use or dependence. In this way, youthful patterns of alcohol use can mark the start of a developmental pathway that may lead to abuse and dependence. Then again, not all young people who travel this pathway experience the same outcomes.
Perhaps the best way to understand and prevent underage alcohol use is to view drinking as it relates to development. This “whole system” approach to underage drinking takes into account a particular adolescent’s unique risk and protective factors—from genetics and personality characteristics to social and environmental factors. Viewed in this way, development includes not only the adolescent’s inherent risk and resilience but also the current conditions that help to shape his or her behavior Children mature at different rates. Developmental research takes this into account, recognizing that during adolescence there are periods of rapid growth and reorganization, alternating with periods of slower growth and integration of body systems.
Periods of rapid transitions, when social or cultural factors most strongly influence the biology and behavior of the adolescent may be the best time to target delivery of interventions. Interventions that focus on these critical development periods could alter the life course of the child, perhaps placing him or her on a path to avoid problems with alcohol. To date, researchers have been unable to identify a single track that predicts the course of alcohol use for all or even most young people. Instead, findings provide strong evidence for wide developmental variation in drinking patterns within this special population.
Someone who is physically dependent on alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or substantially reduce their intake. Symptoms usually commence 6-24 hours after the last drink, last for about five days and include:
* difficulty sleeping (may last several weeks).
Alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous. People drinking more than eight standard drinks a day are advised to discuss a decision to stop drinking with a doctor as medical treatment may be required to prevent complications.
Binge drinking or heavy episodic drinking is the modern epithet for drinking alcoholicbeverages with the primary intention of becoming intoxicated by heavy consumption of alcohol over a short period of time.] It is a kind of purposeful drinking style that is popular in several countries worldwide, and overlaps somewhat with social drinking since it is often done in groups. The degree of intoxication, however, varies between and within various cultures that engage in this practice. A binge on alcohol can occur over hours or last up to several days. Due to the long-term effects of alcohol misuse, binge drinking is considered to be a major public health issue.
Binge drinking is associated with a profound social harm, economic costs as well as increased disease burden. Binge drinking is more common in males, during adolescence and young adulthood. Most binge drinkers are not familiar with the risks associated with binge drinking. Heavy regular binge drinking is associated with adverse effects onneurologic, cardiac, gastrointestinal, hematologic, immune, musculoskeletal organ systems as well as increasing the risk of alcohol induced psychiatric disorders. A US-based review of the literature found that up to one third of adolescents binge drink, with six percent reaching the threshold of having an alcohol-related substance use disorder.
Approximately one in twenty five women binge drink during pregnancy, which can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Binge drinking during adolescence is associated with traffic accidents and other types of accidents, violent behavior as well as suicide. The more often a child or adolescent binge drinks and the younger they are the more likely that they will develop an alcohol use disorder including alcoholism. A large number of adolescents who binge drink also consume other psychotropic substances. Binge drinking has the propensity to result in brain damage faster as well as more severely than chronic ‘non stop’ drinking (alcoholism), due to the neurotoxic effects of the repeated rebound withdrawal effects.
The tolerance that occurs during chronic (‘non-stop’) drinking delays alcohol-related brain damage compared to binge drinking which induces immediate and repeated insults to the brain. The neurotoxic insults to the brain are due to very large amounts of glutamate being released on a repeated basis which over-stimulates the brain after each binge finishes, resulting in excitotoxicity. The developing adolescent brain is thought to be particularly susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of binge drinking, with some evidence of brain damage occurring from drinking more than 4 or 5 drinks once or twice per month.