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  • Alcoholism is a chronic disease and can prove fatal
  • Cure for alcoholism is not yet available.
  • Parents are the strongest influence on adolescent use of alcohol, followed closely by peers.
  • Habits and attitudes related to alcohol develop within the family context.
  • Adolescents drink out of habit or to relieve boredom.
  • Children of alcoholics are at higher risk than their peers for developing alcoholism themselves
  • Adolescents who abuse alcohol become hostile, aggressive, impulsive, unpredictable, depressive with low self esteem and are anxious.

What is alcohol Abuse?

What is alcoholism?

What are the reasons for alcohol consumption among teenagers?

What are the distinct Stages in the abuse of Alcohol?

What are the consequences of alcohol abuse?

Can alcoholism be treated?

Can alcoholism be cured?

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period: failure to fulfil major work, school, or home responsibilities; drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery; recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the effects of alcohol.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal meaning that the disease persists over time and that physical, emotional and social changes are often cumulative and may progress as drinking continues.

In general, alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence is a disease that includes the following four components:

Craving: A strong need or urge to drink

Loss of control: Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun

Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety after stopping to drink.

Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high”

 It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with alcohol despite adverse consequences and distortion of thinking most notably denial.

Ø      Impaired control: the inability to consistently limit on drinking occasions, the duration of the drinking episode, the quantity of alcohol consumed and or the behavioural consequences.

Ø      Preoccupation: excessive, focused attention given to alcohol and to its effects or its use/both. The relative value the person assigns to alcohol often leads to energy being diverted from important life concerns

Ø      Adverse consequences: include alcohol related problems, “disabilities,” or impairments in such areas as physical health (e.g. alcohol withdrawal syndromes, liver disease, gastritis, anaemia and neurological disorders), psychological functioning (e.g. troubled social relationships), occupational functioning (e.g. scholastic or job problems), and legal or financial problems.


What are the reasons for alcohol consumption among teenagers?

Family/Parental Issues-

Several research studies have indicated that parents are the strongest influence on adolescent use of alcohol, followed closely by peers. Parental effects are however, dynamic and complex. Adolescents whose parents exert a moderate degree of control in the relationship tend to have lower rates of alcohol abuse than those whose partners exert either high or low levels of control.

Habits and attitudes related to alcohol develop within the family context. The way adults relate to alcohol within the family environment can have a significant and enduring impact on the children. Adolescents often model or intimate their parents’ use of alcohol. Children of alcoholics are at significantly higher risk than their peers for developing alcoholism themselves.

In families where adolescents feel rejected, lack supervision, perceive emotional tension and are deprived of affection, it is more likely that the adolescent will develop excessive drinking habits. Some other family characteristics that appear to be related to adolescent substance abuse include inconsistent or inadequate limit setting, poor communication, lack of parental involvement in their children’s activities and high levels of disagreements.

Some teenagers decide to cross the line into alcohol as a dramatic way to assert their independence from their parents if Mom and Dad have strong prohibitions against alcohol use and have demanded that they stay away from these substances. 

Peer issues

Some adolescents begin using alcohol to fit in with a particular group of friends who are already using these substances. The pressure from peers (as well as from the media) to use alcohol should not be underestimated. When there are problems at home, peers will tend to be more influential. Evidence suggests that when the motivation for alcohol use is curiosity and experimentation, peers are more likely to be influential. Adolescents typically choose their friends in a way that maximizes compatibility of values, attitudes and behaviours.

Peer groups take on a variety of forms and in adolescence, begin to exert some influence in defining one’s identity. An adolescent may belong to one or more groups, for example, academic crowd (the brains), an athletic crowd (the jocks), a social crowd (the popular teens) and /or drug oriented crowd. Identifying with a particular group provides a rudimentary foundation for the development of an individual identity.

During adolescence, a variety of developmental issues emerge that may have an impact on the initiation and continuing of alcohol consumption. Adolescents feel the need to establish a separate identity and crave for emotional/psychological independence. The cognitive capacity at this stage increases and there grows a need to become productive and self-sufficient. This is the phase in life when there is increasing importance of relationships with peers and the emergence of sexual awareness.

Some adolescents   drink out of habit or to relieve boredom, some are “simple curious”; they have heard that alcohol gets one high and makes one feel good. They may also think that alcohol will relax them, boost their self-confidence, and make them communicate better with the opposite sex. Others may see alcohol as a “rite of passage”- something to be experienced on the way to adulthood.

Risk and Protective factors

Risk factors are considered to be those precursors that increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing alcohol related problems. Psychosocial risk factors that have an individual and/or interpersonal component associate with alcohol abuse include, problems with identity formation, persistent academic underachievement, emotional detachment, difficulties in developing responsible autonomy, persistent isolation/rejection from peers, involvement in delinquent activity. The risk factors for alcohol use are different from those of alcohol abuse.

Protective factors also sometimes called resiliency factors are those that appear to increase an individual’s resistance to developing alcohol related problems. The major protective factors that contribute to resiliency in youth include flexibility, adaptability, autonomy, empathy, good communication and problem solving skills, a sense of humour, social competence, a sense of purpose, opportunities for participation, high expectations for achievement.

Some personality characteristics of adolescents who abuse alcohol are-hostility, aggression, impulsivity, unpredictability, depression, dependency, low self-esteem immaturity, anxiety, instability.

Depression when combined with impulsivity makes adolescents who use alcohol more at risk for suicide. In fact suicide is the second largest cause of deaths among adolescents, and many of these deaths are alcohol-related. Adolescents frequently use alcohol to self-medicate feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt and fear.

What are the distinct Stages in the Utilization of Alcohol?

A teenager’s exposure to alcohol usually begins with experimentation. It is a form of recreation during this phase, and peer pressure is often responsible for an adolescent’s introduction to this. Frequently no obvious behavioural changes occur this period. Next the teenagers progress to a stage in which they actively seek to alcohol. They enter a stage of psychological dependence, convinced that they feel better during stressful times.

What are the consequences of alcohol abuse?

Impact of alcohol consumption on adolescent behaviour

In the process, certain behavioural changes become apparent. Some of them are listed below:

v     Excessive time spent alone

v     A decline in communication with family members

v     Changes in the way they dress and groom

v     Deteriorating grades at school and a lack of motivation to do well academically

v     A change in their choice of friends

v     Repeated or unexplained motor vehicle accidents or violence (fights)

v     Poor sleeping habits, sluggish behaviour and a lack of energy

v     Irregular eating patterns

v     Mood changes, including irritability and depression

v     Alcohol has been determined to be a “gateway” to drug, in that its use often precedes the use of other drugs.

The use of alcohol often impairs coordination and cognitive functioning, diminishes problem solving and decision-making ability and can lead to unwanted sexual encounters.

Alcohol use may also increase the likelihood of contracting AIDS as it could impair the immune system, thereby increasing the vulnerability to HIV infection.

Impact of Alcohol consumption on Sexual behaviour of the Adolescents

Small amount of alcohol are stimulating but large amounts curb sexual response. This is so because alcohol is a depressant. People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may feel more sexually aroused because of their expectations about alcohol to enhance the sexual responsiveness.

Some psychological effects of alcohol on women

Some characteristics of a woman’s physiology can help one to explain some differences in the effects of alcohol in women as opposed to men. A woman’s body has a lower percentage of water content than that of a man. As a result, women can give higher readings of alcohol in the blood levels after having taken alcoholic drinks.

The alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme involved in metabolising alcohol) is present in lower quantities in a woman’s stomach. As a consequence, more alcohol passes from their stomach into the intestine where it will be absorbed, rather then broken down. Fluctuations of certain hormone levels during the menstrual cycle can lead to changes in susceptibility to the toxic effects of alcohol intake. The toxic effects of alcohol on the liver may be well pronounced in women.

Can alcoholism be treated?

The nature of treatment depends on the severity of an individual’s alcoholism and the resources that are available in his or her community. Treatment may include detoxification (the process of safely getting alcohol out of one’s system); taking prescription medications such as disulfiram (Antaabuser R or Naltrexone (Revia TM), to help prevent a return to drinking once drinking has stopped; and individual and or group counselling.

There are promising types of counselling that teach recovering alcoholics to identify situations and feelings that trigger the urge to drink and to find new ways to cope that do not include alcohol use. Any of these treatments may be provided in a hospital or residential treatment setting or on an outpatient basis.

Because the involvement of family members is important to the recovery process, many programs also offer brief marital counselling and family therapy as part of the treatment process. Some programs also link up individuals with vital community resources, such as legal assistance, job training, childcare, and patenting classes.

Can Alcoholism be cured? 

While alcoholism is a treatable disease, a cure is not yet available. That means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long while and has regained health, he or she remains susceptible to relapse and must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages. "Cutting down" on drinking doesn't work; cutting out alcohol is necessary for a successful recovery.

However, even individuals who are determined to stay sober may suffer one or several "slips," or relapses, before achieving long-term sobriety. Relapses are very common and do not mean that a person has failed or cannot eventually recover from alcoholism. Keep in mind, too, that every day that a recovering alcoholic has stayed sober prior to a relapse is extremely valuable time, both to the individual and to his or her family. If a relapse occurs, it is very important to try to stop drinking once again and to get whatever additional support is needed to abstain from drinking.  

Expectations that alcohol serves as an aphrodisiac may lead men who have problems achieving erection to turn to alcohol as a cure. The fact is, that alcohol is a depressant and can reduce sexual potency rather than restore it. Alcohol may also lower sexual inhibitions thereby leading to an increase in the probability of teens engaging in high-risk or unsafe sexual behaviour due to impaired judgment.

Studies have shown that men and women who drink alcohol and subsequently engage in sexual intercourse are generally less likely to use condoms. Alcohol is associated with liberated social role and thus provides an excuse for dubious behaviour. Drinkers sometimes say, “It was alcohol, not me”. People may express their sexual desires and do things when drinking that they   would not do when sober.

In laboratory studies, men who were misled into believing that they had drunk alcohol, spent more time lingering over pornographic pictures as researchers looked on, than did men who thought they had not drunk alcohol. Alcohol can also induce feelings of euphoria, which may in turn enhance sexual arousal and also wash away qualms about expressing sexual desires.


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