Early initiation of alcohol consumption is a concern among those who seek to intervene and treat teenage substance abuse. Alcohol consumption is associated with many negative outcomes in teens, including injury, dangerous sexual behaviors and vehicular accidents.
However, some of the concerns about early drinking in adolescents are related to the long-term risks connected with early initiation. Adolescents who begin drinking at a young age expose their bodies to alcohol for a longer period of time than those who begin drinking in adulthood.
The Dangers Of Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption is connected with physical health problems, including heart disease, liver disease and certain types of cancer. Individuals who begin drinking before high school not only begin the exposure to health risks but, in addition, some research has shown that those who begin drinking during adolescence are more likely to go on to develop an addiction than those who begin later.
A 2008 study by researchers at the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University indicates that along with the potential health risks, there are also long-term risks of behavioral problems among individuals who begin drinking as pre-teens.
The study finds that when pre-teens initiate alcohol use, they are significantly more likely to engage in violence when they are adolescents and as they transition into young adulthood.
When Does The Connection Between Alcohol And Violence Begin?
According to associate professor Monica Swahn, the research is the first to look at the connection between early initiation of alcohol use and violence in later teen years. The findings appear in an issue of the journal Pediatrics.
While experts have believed for a long time that there was a connection between early drinking and violence, the belief was based on anecdotes. This study confirms that belief, with findings that show a significant relationship with the two instances.
The findings show that those who begin drinking before the age of 13 are three times more likely to attempt suicide when compared with teens who do not drink. The finding’s importance is highlighted by the authors’ background information that names suicide as the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults.
In addition, the study provided evidence that teens who have initiated drinking before the age of 13 are more likely to be victims of peer and dating violence when compared to their non-drinking counterparts.
Is Everyone Who Underage Drinks Effected By Violence?
It may seem that these statistics apply only to a small number of adolescents who are exposed to alcohol at an early age. However, one of the more concerning findings of the study was the number of middle-school children who have used alcohol.
The study’s findings, based on a survey administered to students in grades 7, 9, 11, and 12 in a public school defined as high risk show that 35 percent of 7th graders admitted to using alcohol before the age of 13. The students in this school were exposed to high levels of unemployment, poverty and crime. The community also had a high percentage of single-parent households.
The findings of the study highlight the need for additional strategies to reduce drinking among early middle school students. Keeping adolescents from drinking not only improves their long-term personal physical health, but also reduces the risks of suicide and other types of violence.
How To Fix The Problem
Reducing alcohol consumption among teenagers is often rooted in the enforcement of minimum legal drinking ages and by imposing additional excise taxes on alcohol purchases.
Parents should make a continuing effort to talk with their teens about the potential negative consequences associated with underage drinking. They should also discuss their wishes and expectations related to their child’s involvement with alcohol and other substance use, including a clear communication of rules about drinking.
Parents often shy away from talking with their teens about substance use, believing that they cannot compete with peer pressure and other societal factors. However, some research has shown that parents are the most significant influence on substance use decisions among teens. Parents can make an important impact on their child’s decisions and help them navigate difficult situations.