Youth and Alcohol: Facts about alcohol abuse and addiction

Young people may start drinking alcohol to feel more connected with their friends or older siblings or because they see it happening in parties and the social life around them. It is also possible that they are using alcohol to help deal with stress and anxiety which is common during this period of life due to peer pressure, instincts to take risks, or due to pure boredom.

It is important to educate our youth and the younger generation that alcohol consumption can be addictive and dangerous even though it may appear to be a socially and culturally acceptable behavior.

Here are some answers to questions that are asked frequently:

Is it dangerous?

Alcohol can be dangerous in several ways.

When a person consumes alcohol, it has an influence on their physical and mental responses including reflexes, judgment, behavior, and attitude. With a wide range of individual differences, these responses can range from overconfidence or embarrassment to unwanted or high-risk sexual contact, to violence, injury, or death. Alcohol is involved in more regrettable moments, crimes, and traffic fatalities than all other drugs of abuse combined.

Young people are also increasingly exposed to illegal street drugs. It is important to keep in mind that mixing alcohol with other drugs can have unpredictable consequences. The chemicals in alcohol can reduce the effects of other drugs by blocking their absorption, or on the other hand, it may increase the effect of the other drug, making them a deadly combination.

The general rule is never to mix alcohol with any other drugs—whether the other drug is a medication or an illegal substance. Better check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication and planning to consume alcohol or recreational drugs.

Is it addictive?

Alcohol is an addictive substance that involves physical dependence. Since this involves tolerance to the effects of alcohol, people need to consume more to get the same desired effect. Physical dependence also includes withdrawal symptoms when regular alcohol use is abruptly stopped.

While alcohol consumption could lead to addiction, it is also important to know that alcohol-related social problems, sicknesses, traffic accidents, and deaths are more frequent due to “problem drinking.” This term is used to describe the use of alcohol that leads to problems in a person’s life but is not an addiction and physical dependence on the substance. In fact, the problem of drinking is much more serious and frequent compared to severe alcohol dependence.

Educating young people about alcohol is critical in our society. Long-term use of alcohol can damage the brain. Resulting effects, in the long run, could lead to dementia, difficulties with coordination and motor control, and loss of feeling or painful burning in the feet. Often, the dependence on alcohol leads to clinical depression and is considered to be a leading reason for the high rates of suicide among people addicted to alcohol.

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