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Alcohol and its impact on young people
What do we know about alcohol?
Alcohol is a colourless, tasteless liquid produced by fermentation. As a depressant it slows the activity of the central nervous system. This involves reduced inhibitions and also worsening in co-ordination and reflexes. These effects play a major role in accidents. Alcohol is also linked to anti-social behaviour, violence, assaults and street offences which place people at risk of arrest and criminal conviction. The effects of alcohol include nausea, vomiting, increased self-confidence, euphoria, aggression and it is also related to health problems and deaths. Continual use of alcohol can lead to dependence, and this can cause liver and brain damage, high blood pressure or even mouth cancer. In the UK alcohol is legal, but its supply and sell to people under the age of 18 years is prohibited. Premises must have a licence to sell alcohol and also they are restricted in relation to the times they can serve alcohol. Drivers of vehicles must ensure that their blood alcohol levels remain below those prescribed by law. In some areas of the world the trade of alcohol is banned entirely (i.e. Pakistan), and in some countries alcohol is tightly controlled (i.e. Sweden). Despite of this alcohol is smuggled or 'boot-legged' ( produced or distributed illegally) in very high quantities.
Alcohol and young people
So why do young people drink alcohol?
Many young people are influenced by their friends drinking (or non-drinking) habits. Also a report from the Royal College of Physicians and British Paediatric Association showed that young people who feel excluded from society, because they are out of work or in a boring job are more likely to drink heavily than those studying or in interesting occupations. Evidence shows that heightened levels of alcohol consumption also appears among teenagers who may be considered to be 'alienated'. Young people's drinking habit is also influenced by parents and peers. The research on alcohol and family life in the US shows that 1 in 8 children have at least one parent who has a problem with drinking ( MacDonald and Blume, 1996). UK figures show between 780 000 and 1.3 million children are affected by parental alcohol misuse ( Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy 2004). Family support, family drinking have all been identified as having an important influence on youth drinking. Heavy drinking by young people is associated with low parental control, low support and heavy parental drinking.
Teenager problems associated with drinking
European surveys reported several problems associated with youthful drinking. 9% of boys engaged in sex regretted it the next day. For the same problem the percentage of the girls was 12%. The percentage of boys who engaged in a fight under the influence of alcohol was 12%, the girls percentage only one percent less. 9% of boys and 11% of girls had trouble with the police. Other problems caused by own drinking which teenagers reported were: engaged in unprotected sex ( boys 6%, girls 11%), loss of money or valuables ( boys 16%, girls 22%), hospitalised or admitted to the emergency room ( boys 2%, girls 3%), problems in relationship with parents (boys 6%, girls 10%).
What are the risks for teenagers?
- becoming dependant on alcohol
- alcohol poisoning - is the most life threatening consequence
- being involved in an accident
- being victimized by robbery, theft or sexual assault
Solutions for parents?
- Have a look at your own drinking. Know your daily unit guideline to pass the message to your child. As mentioned before children and teenagers are greatly influenced by their parents' drinking habits.
- Discuss with your child the effects (both physical and psychological). Explain them the long-term effects and damages alcohol can cause.
- If you are worried about your child's drinking habit, seek professional help.