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Teen Alcoholism

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Teen Alcoholism: Problems for America's Youth

"In 1991, a study by the United States Surgeon General's office stated that 8 million out of the 20.7 million young people in grades 7 through 12 drank alcoholic beverages every week. It went on to say that 454,000 of those youngsters reported weekly binges (Claypool 21)." In the United States and all over the world underage teens are drinking, and it may be because they just don't know about alcohol and its effects (Monroe 56). Underage or teen drinking is a major problem today that is increasing more and more, and something needs to be done to stop this increase and to control the number of underage drinkers.

There are many statistics that show just how big this problem is amongst our youth. One frightening statistic that shows how much this problem has been increasing is that between 1948 and 1988 the percent of teen drinkers increased by 57 percent (Nielsen 47). Many parents may think that their child may not drink until they are much older, but the average age that teenagers try alcohol is between the ages twelve and sixteen (9). Also, a 1995 study taken by the University of Michigan stated that 35 out of 100 high school seniors drank 5 or more drinks at one time at least once during their two week survey period (Claypool 10). " A recent poll by the National Association of Student Councils found that alcohol was the leading school problem and 46 percent [of students] said it was the school's most serious problem (Monroe 53)." This may be because alcohol is very dangerous because it is a poisonous drug that can be very addictive (Mitchell 6).

In order to help solve this problem of underage drinking we must first try to understand why teens drink alcohol. There are many reasons why a young teen may choose to drink alcohol. A national survey, taken in 1995, showed that 87 percent of parents thought that teens drank because of peer pressure, but 79 percent of teenagers said it was just because they liked the feeling they got when they drank (27). The main reason and the biggest reason why teens drink would probably have to be peer pressure, but there are many other reasons other than peer pressure why a teen might drink.

"In addition to peer influences, some experts believe that media depiction of alcohol use in print advertising, television and radio commercials, and fictional television programs such as sitcoms and dramatic series glamorizes alcohol to young people and can influence their decision to drink (Mitchell 28)." The media today is very influential, and by viewing alcohol being glamorized some teens think that it is acceptable to drink. Many teenagers are fascinated by some of the alcohol commercials on television such as the comedic Budweiser ads, and researchers believe that this fascination may lead them to try the product being advertised (30).

Peer pressure is a huge issue for a teenager these days and it affects many decisions a teen might make. Being a teen can be an awkward situation, and in order to fit in and feel less awkward teens might start to drink, but what they don't know is that it may not be so easy to stop (Landau 52). Some teens would do anything to "be cool" so if the "cool" teens told them drink, they might just be pressured into doing so as well (Nielsen 53).

Many times peer pressure and social situations seem to be similar in that they both can cause a teenager to do something they normally wouldn't do. The only difference is that with peer pressure he or she is forced to make a decision and with social situations, the teen makes the decision. A teen's social environment can also lead him to start drinking. For example, a teen might try drinking in order to loosen up or to be less shy, and if he thinks that he did loosen up he might want to do it again (Mitchell 25). Many social situations such as a party or school function may present the opportunity to drink, and if teens see that everybody else is drinking they might do it too (27). Sometimes a teen boy might drink so that he can impress his friends by drinking a lot, and show then that he is a "real man" (Landau 53).

Teenagers might also choose to drink because they have emotional or family problems. Many teens may drink to escape from their emotional problems such as depression and anxiety (53). The root of their emotional problems may be their family. Parents play a big part in a teen's decision to drink and if a teen's parents use alcohol, their child may want to do so as well so that they can be like their mom or dad (Nielsen 54). A young teenager might think that if they drink they would be more mature, and they may do it to feel older or to be like someone older (Claypool 53). If the parents of the teen aren't responsible or if they just don't care if their child drinks, they may even give their child alcohol, and this can start that teen on drinking alcohol (Nielsen 54).

It is easy to see that there are many causes of teenage drinking, but there are far more problems caused by drinking than reasons a teen could give as to why he or she drinks. Antonia Novello, former Surgeon General of the United States, had to say this about teen drinking: "The use of alcohol by young people can lead to serious health consequences far beyond those well known about drinking and driving-the likes of absenteeism, vandalism, date rape, truancy, theft and random violence, to name a few (Pringle 77)." The many problems caused by teenage drinking are not just limited to physical problems the teen might have due to drinking alcohol but there also many emotional, mental, and social problems caused by teenage drinking.

Teenage drinking can cause many health problems. There are many diseases and disorders that can be linked to drinking. Alcohol can cause many diseases such as cirrhosis, which is caused by alcohol burning the liver and scaring it (Clayton 31). Eventually, this scaring will lead the liver to stop functioning, killing the person who has this disease (31). When someone has cirrhosis the can't break down alcohol and toxins, and if the person continues to drink alcohol it can get so bad that they can't break down toxins from everyday food and they'll eventually die (Pringle 20).

Cirrhosis isn't the only condition caused by alcohol. Alcohol can also cause a person to get the delirium tremens, which causes the person to shake and

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