Teenage Alcoholism

“What is alcohol? Alcohol is many things to many people: To little kids, it is a curiosity. To teenagers, it is ‘cool’. To responsible drinkers, it is a relaxant. To bartenders, it is a job, their lives. To restaurant owners, it is a moneymaker. To probation officers, it is a frustration. To actively drinking alcoholics, it is heaven. To wives and husbands of drinking alcoholics, it is a waste. To recovering alcoholics, it is a painful old friend. To us, it is something to be learned about and controlled. “ (Dolmetsch, p.4) The definition of alcoholism stresses the basic elements of (1) chronicity; (2) compulsive, uncontrollable drinking; (3) intoxication; and (4) interruption of normal life functions. (Claypool, p. 91) When the drinker’s work, social life, study habits, mental health, or family and personal relationships are affected, the possibility exists that the drinker may be an alcoholic. If the drinker is able to stop drinking permanently, then he is not considered to be an alcoholic. “For teenagers and adults, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug. It is easy to get, easy to use, and as common in our society as aspirin.” (Claypool, p. 62) Millions of American teenagers drink alcohol. Young people drink for many reasons; whether it’s to escape the daily stress of school or family life, or to fit in with their friends. But sadly enough, many teenagers discover too late that drinking cannot solve any of their problems. Teenage drinking is now one of the most serious problems that young people face. (Landau, intro) In 1977, Senator Frank J. Dodd stated: “Alcoholism is one of the greatest health problems in the United States and is one that afflicts individuals in virtually all social and economic categories and varying age groups.” (Claypool, pp. 90 -91) From the time children reach the age of 13 ½, 63 percent of the boys and 54 percent of the girls have at least tried their first alcoholic beverage. (Claypool, p. 14) Alcohol use substantially increases each year throughout junior and senior high school. By the twelfth grade, 93 percent of the young men and 87 percent of the young women have at least tried one drink. Thirty percent of these students had five or more drinks in a row within the previous two weeks. (Landau, p.15) The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that: “By the time teenagers reach twelfth grade, more than half of them drink alcohol at least once a week; Nearly half of all teenagers who drink say that they have been drunk at least once – compared to only 19 percent twenty years ago; Five percent admit they get drunk once a week or more often; Thirty-four percent say their drinking habit has created problems with school, friends, or police; The average amount of alcohol a teenage drinker consumes is equivalent to four twelve-ounce cans of beer a week; Beer is the favorite alcoholic beverage of teenagers.” More than three million – 19 percent – of the 14-17 year olds in the U.S. are considered problem drinkers. (Claypool, pp. 55-56, 85) The society that we live in today drinks heavily and this influences many teenagers. Most Americans use alcohol to celebrate weddings, toast anniversaries, welcome the New Year, and for many other special events. Despite the fact that serving alcohol to young people is against the law, it is a commonplace event. (Claypool, p.15) When a child becomes a teenager, this means that he is getting older and that he might want to experiment and discover new things. At this age he might try to take risks and explore newfound boundaries. Experimentation to find personal identity is certainly normal during the teen years. Once a child does become a teenager, it seems like he is always being faced with different obstacles such as not being one of the crowd, and with problems at home or with school. They might want to hide their feelings that go along with their problems, and they may feel lonely and depressed. There are many hard decisions to be made like whether to take drugs, or to drink alcohol. While a minor is not allowed to drink by law, he is constantly being encouraged to drink by television, movies, and peer pressure from