Alcohol and Adolescents

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Alcohol is the drug of choice among young people, and because of the repercussions of excessive drinking, alcoholism has become a major health problem in many states. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 youngsters aged 21 and under die as a result of underage drinking-related homicide, motor vehicle accidents, suicide, and injuries such as burns, drowning, and falls. Nonetheless, several studies on smaller populations and surveys show that drinking is still widespread and common among teens (World Health Organization, & World Health Organization, 2014). According to another studies, adolescents begin drinking at fairly young ages, with 14 years being the average age for ingesting alcoholic beverages in 2003.  Individuals reported to be drinking before attaining 15 years were highly likely to show a level of dependency of alcohol at some stages of their lives. To this end, this paper seeks to analyze the factors which push adolescents to engage in drinking practices such as risk taking, expectations, sensitivity and tolerance to alcohol. Additional factors discussed herein are psychiatric comorbidity, personality characteristics, hereditary factors and environmental aspects (Durand & Barlow, 2012). Furthermore, this paper assesses the health risks associated with drinking among adolescents such as brain, liver and growth effects. Thirdly, the different ways of addressing drinking among adolescents is addressed, and they include frameworks and selected programs.

The statistics and trends on the survey carried out by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 showed that 14.7% of people between ages 12-17 drink once in 30 days. Additionally, the article on Monitoring the Future stated that before the survey, 13.8% of 8th graders, 28.9% of 10th graders, and 41.2% of 12th graders consumed at least one drink 30 days and 5.0% of 8th graders, 14.7% of 10th graders, and 26.8% of 12th graders had been drunk. In 2014, youths between 12-17 years underwent treatments for alcohol related problems as more than 10% children have parents with health problems, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In 2014, the NSDUH stated that the prevalence of underage drinking stood at 34.7%, and binge drinking accounted for over 13.8%, which represents 1.3 million people (Sathe, Chen, Laufenberg, Gordek & Abuse, 2013).

Reasons Why Adolescents Engage in Drinking Activities

During the process in which individuals transit from childhood to adulthood, they experience lifestyle, emotional and physical changes. Apparently, these transitions in development such as increased dependence and puberty, they are connected with the abuse of alcohol, which makes adolescents a risk factor. These reasons include:

Taking of Risks: According to recent studies, brains develop well in their twenties and it continues establishing important connections of communication. This is believed by scientists as a developmental period that assists in the explanation of behaviour which is associated with adolescents such as trying out new things. Therefore, seeking thrill, to some adolescents, is associated with alcohol, and these developmental changes give explanations on the impulsive actions of teens.

Expectancies: The different ways in which individuals view alcohol and its related effects is a major influence on their drinking behaviours. Therefore, any adolescent who views drinking as pleasurable is likely to engage in more drinking habits than those who do not. An essential research area on alcohol focuses on the ways expectancy affects drinking patterns from childhood, adolescence and to young adulthood. Considerably, beliefs on alcohol are grown early in life even before one grows, and at around 9 years, children view alcohol as negative. At around 13 years, there are shifting expectations as alcohol is viewed as positive, which makes adolescents engage in drinking practices.

Tolerance and Sensitivity to alcohol: The differences between the maturity of an adult and child’s brain assists in arriving at explanations on the reason as to why there are many young drinkers. Young people consume large volumes of alcohol before having negative drinking consequences such as lack of coordination, drowsiness and hangover effects. Therefore, this tolerance assists in giving explanations on the high rates of alcoholism among the youth, who are sensitive to positive drinking effects such as being more social.

Psychiatric Comorbidity and Traits of Personality: Children who develop drinking habits at an early age have the same personality traits which make them start drinking. The type of young people at risk of abusing alcohol include those viewed as antisocial and are suffering from hyperactiveness, disruptiveness and aggressiveness. Furthermore, behaviours associated with alcoholism are rebelliousness, dishinibtion and difficulty in averting harmful situations and dangers.

Factors of Hereditary: Physiological and behavioural factors are relevant in decreasing or increasing the levels of risk of an individual to alcoholic problems. Therefore, children who are born from alcoholics have high chance of developing these habits than those whose relatives are not alcoholics. Additional studies have shown that children of addicts have differences in their brain which is responsible for alcoholic problems.

Aspects of the Environment: In adolescents, the behaviours of drinking are a reflection of the connection between environmental and inherited factors. Therefore, genetic factors play an important role in drinking behaviours among late adolescents. The influence of peers and parents, which are regarded as environmental factors, are important aspects in the abuse of alcohol. There are current studies on the influence of the media as alcoholic drinks are widely promoted through radio, television, internet and billboards

Health Risks Associated with Drinking Among Adolescents

The pushing factors that prompt adolescents into drinking habits often expose them to a number of health risks. Apparently, serious health problems which are related to the use of alcohol harmfully are more common in adults compared to children. These risks include but are not limited to, firstly, brain problems which is a field that researchers have continued to examine regardless of its associated difficulties. The changes to the brain of an individual is connected to many factors, and they are often hard to detect and have impacts on memory skills and long-term thinking (Dunn & Goldman, 1996). However, studies are yet to be ascertained on the ways in which alcohol affects the learning skills and long-term memory of individuals who began drinking habits as adolescents. The second health risk is on the liver which occurs through the increase of liver enzymes to cause damages to the organ amongst adolescents. On the same note, young adolescents who drink alcohol and have obesity have increased enzymes of the liver even when they do not drink heavily. Finally, endocrine and growth effects are health risks in both females and males when they undergo puberty. Puberty is associated with changes in hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which have an effect of increasing the manufacture of other growth factors and hormones that are important for the normal development of organs. Therefore, during this period of continual growth and development, engaging in alcohol drinking practices before or after puberty has the possibility of upsetting normal development of bones, organs and muscles. Additionally, studies carried out in animals have also shown that the consumption of alcoholic content during the period of puberty has an effect on the rate of maturity of organs of reproduction.

Interventions Relevant for Preventing Underage Drinking Among Adolescents

The approaches used in preventing or minimizing drinking habits among adolescents are mainly grouped into two broad categories. These include, firstly, environmental interventions that aim at the reduction of opportunities for underage drinking, reducing the tolerance of the community to underage drinking, increment for the violation of the minimum legal drinking age and other laws. The second intervention is based on individuals and its main objectives include but are not limited to changing expectancies, knowledge, attitudes, motivation, intentions and skills for the youth to enable them resist influences and opportunities to drinking which surround them. On the one hand, the environmental approaches include:

Increasing the price of alcohol as shown by research bodies, because when taxes on alcoholic beverages and prices are increased, the rate of consumption of alcohol will reduce considerably, mostly in young individuals.

Increasing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA): currently, all nations have a minimum legal drinking age, which does not allow young people to get exposed to alcoholic beverages. Therefore, increasing the age at which individuals can buy and consume alcohol legally is regarded as the most influential measure towards the reduction of alcohol drinking and its related problems. According to many research done by scientists, the reduction of the age of drinking to 21 is responsible for saving over 21,000 traffic loss of lives. An example is given of New Zealand that reduced the legal age of drinking alcohol to 18 years, as a result leading to a rise in 12% of crashes by adolescents. Therefore, it is clear that with a high minimum alcohol consumption agree, there is reduction of loss of lives in young adolescents.

Adoption and Execution of Laws on Zero-Tolerance: every nation has zero-tolerance laws which makes it illegal for persons under the age of 21 to drive after drinking. The results of the execution of these laws indicated a 21% decrease in the number of crashes involving adolescent drivers.

Calling for the Execution of Laws: zero-tolerance laws and the legal age for drinking have not been executed vigorously. Therefore, there is need for availing resources to support laws against the purchase of alcohol by buyers and sellers.

On the other hand, interventions focused on an Individual include but are not limited to:

School-Based Prevention Programs: Accordingly, the first school-based prevention program was used in giving information and it involved the use of tactics to scare people. The basics with which these programs were founded rested on the fact that if the young understood the dangers of alcohol abuse, they would live in fear of drinking. Apparently, these initiatives were ineffective, but currently there are better programmes which have been advanced but still have a lot in similarity to the old ones. These similarities include setting norms, following models of social influence, teaching skills of resistance and addressing the social pressures in drinking. Moreover, these strategies are considered to be providing information that are for growth and interaction purposes, and they include peer reviews and teacher training guides (Hennessy & Tanner-Smith, 2015).

Family-Based Prevention Agendas: The abilities of parents to impact their children’s behaviours on drinking is written and is very much in consistency across ethnic groups. Therefore, efforts such as establishing clear and detailed rules which prohibit drinking practices, executing those rules consistently and monitoring the behaviour of a child are measures that are helpful in the reduction of the chances of involvement in underage drinking (Kuntsche & Kuntsche, 2016).


From the above discussions, it is clear that adolescence is a representation of an important time in the life of an individual as he or she undergoes the process of development. The attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that individuals carry with them throughout their adult lives are firmly set during this period. Adolescents start learning how to handle adult responsibilities while also gaining more independence and developing a sense of identity. It is clear that this can become difficult and confusing to adolescents at times, as they seek to establish a balance between new and existing ideas and experiences. Therefore, choosing adolescents and alcohol as a topic has assisted in assessing the factors which contribute to drinking among this age group and the relevant associated illnesses. Additionally, this topic has covered on the different remedies available for the reduction of adolescents drinking problem. Apparently, all these measures have been applied and have overseen success in the numerous rehabilitation of the youths from drinking habits. Many lives have been saved as it is very difficult to find states that do not have laws prohibit underage drinking. Presently, alcohol is promoted throughout the society and it is readily available, but underage drinking remains dangerous considering the number of suicides, homicides and motor vehicle crashes. Associated risk to individuals who began early drinking include alcoholism, risky sexual behaviours and poor school performances. Therefore, the identification of adolescents at greater risks is helpful in stopping drinking problems before they become a habit.


Dunn, M. E., & Goldman, M. S. (1996). Empirical modeling of an alcohol expectancy memory network in elementary school children as a function of grade. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 4(2), 209.

Durand, V. M., & Barlow, D. H. (2012). Essentials of abnormal psychology. Cengage Learning.

Hennessy, E. A., & Tanner-Smith, E. E. (2015). Effectiveness of brief school-based interventions for adolescents: A meta-analysis of alcohol use prevention programs. Prevention Science, 16(3), 463-474.

Kuntsche, S., & Kuntsche, E. (2016). Parent-based interventions for preventing or reducing adolescent substance use—A systematic literature review. Clinical psychology review, 45, 89-101.

Sathe, N., Chen, P., Dai, L., Laufenberg, J., Gordek, H., Cribb, D., ... & Abuse, S. (2013). NATIONAL SURVEY ON DRUG USE AND HEALTH.

World Health Organization, & World Health Organization. Management of Substance Abuse Unit. (2014). Global status report on alcohol and health, 2014. World Health Organization.

April 26, 2023

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