Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction
Alcohol is the most widely abused addictive drug, not only in the United States, but also across the entire globe. So for the past 28 years, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month.
Each year the campaign focuses on a new theme in an effort raise public awareness and understanding of the devastating consequences alcoholism has on individuals, families and society a whole. More information about resources and the current theme can be found on the NCADD website.
More than 10 million young adults between the ages of 12 and 20 do not just take a “sip” of alcohol when it’s available. This data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) suggests that while young adults may drink less frequently than their older counterparts, when they do imbibe, it more often falls into the category of binge drinking.
What Are the Major Problems From Underage Drinking?
The negative outcomes of underage drinking are significant. Here are just a few of them:
- Brain development – alcohol abuse and addiction changes the chemical makeup of the human brain. Because the brain isn’t fully developed, on average, until the age of 25, teenage alcohol consumption can interrupt this normal development process and lead to psychological problems, like depression or anxiety.
- Death and or serious injury – at least 5,000 deaths a year are attributed to underage suicides, car crashes, homicides, poisonings, burns, falls and drownings. That by itself is a sad statistic, but in addition, nearly 200,000 emergency room visits for teenage alcohol-related injuries are reported each year.
- Impulsiveness – at a time in life when individuals are eager to express their independence and experience new things, alcohol impairs judgment-making skills. Underage alcohol consumption increases dangerous activities like unprotected sex, drinking and driving and other sorts of risky behavior.
- Higher rate of sexual assault and violence – studies of underage alcohol consumption have shown that this population is more likely to be victims of perpetrators of sexual and physical assault.
Though it might seem insignificant, the age of a person’s first drink of alcohol can be an important benchmark, in both a positive and negative way. Researchers have been able to prove that the risk of developing alcohol use disorder increases in individuals who consume alcohol before the age of 15. On the flip side of the coin, delaying regular alcohol consumption until 18 years of age or later, the likelihood of contracting dependency issues decreases.
There is good news, however, amidst these seemingly dark and depressing statistics. A mounting pile of scientific evidence shows that early intervention and treatment for drug addiction and alcoholism is effective. The sooner a pattern of abuse can be interrupted the better. The brain has an opportunity to heal and regain its natural chemical balance, and through therapy, teens can learn new coping skills that help them avoid harmful behaviors.
A cooperative effort from parents, educators, community organizers, local governments and young people themselves is needed to bring attention to the issue of underage alcohol consumption. Visit ncaad.org for more information on local events and ways to support Alcohol Awareness Month.
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