Alcoholism in adolescents: everything you need to know

Alcohol consumption in adolescents is more and more frequent, but it can have serious consequences. We tell you how to prevent problem use in your children.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz on September 05, 2021.

Last update: 05 September, 2021

Alcohol consumption is normalized in our society, even being perceived as a desirable activity. Alcoholic beverages are present in multiple contexts and are the protagonists of celebrations and family and friends gatherings. However, if consumption poses a risk to adults, teen alcoholism can have much more severe consequences.

It is estimated that more than 76% of adolescents have consumed alcohol at some time in their life and almost 28% have gotten drunk in the last month. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is very frequent among the adolescent population and the first consumption is increasingly made at younger ages.

In view of these data, it is imperative that parents take preventive measures to prevent your children from suffering short and long-term sequelae. If you don't know how to start tackling the subject, here is everything you need to know about it.

What are the causes of alcoholism in adolescents?

For prevention to be effective, it is important to understand the reasons that young people consume alcohol. In the first place, there is no doubt that consumption normalization and easy access are key points.

And it is that in this way, young people not only underestimate the risks, but they can also be made with alcoholic beverages in a simple way and in close surroundings. On the other hand, the very nature of adolescence can contribute to consumption for different reasons:

  • The young man seeks to detach himself from parental values and defiant attitudes are frequent. Thus, the intake of alcohol can be considered as an act of rebellion.
  • The need to be accepted by equals grows and be part of the group. Therefore, social pressure exerts a great influence.
  • Adolescence is a time of great changes that can overwhelm the young person. In alcohol he can find a way to avoid suffering and overcome your fears and limitations.
  • A feeling of invulnerability appears which leads the adolescent to think that he will not be affected by any of the consequences of alcohol.

But in addition, there are certain phenomena that make alcoholism remain and can become chronic. And it is that it has been found that young people are much less sensitive to the sedative and aversive effects of alcohol. On the other hand, they experience the reinforcing effects to a greater extent than adults.

For this reason, they do not have the barriers that limit the escalation of consumption in adults. For them, in the short term, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Alcohol is normalized in society, so its consumption is more frequent, due to the acceptance it has.

Risks and health consequences of alcoholism in adolescents

The damage that excessive alcohol consumption can cause to the body are known. However, when we talk about adolescents, because they are in full development, the consequences can be more adverse.

First, alcohol alters the hormonal action of puberty and affects growth. But above all, the main consequences are presented at the psychosocial level.

Brain development is not complete when they reach adolescence, so alcoholism in adolescents affects their cognitive abilities. The prefrontal cortex (in charge of reasoning, planning, and decision-making) continues to mature for several more years.

In the same way, attention, memory and learning can be seriously impaired, the consequences being greater the more frequent and prolonged the consumption of alcohol by the young person. What's more, certain psychological conditions (anxiety, depression and low self-esteem) may appear to a greater extent in these cases.

As if this were not enough, it has been shown that the age of alcohol consumption is significantly related to the risk of developing problem drinking or addiction. In this way, the sooner the intake is started, the greater the risk of generating dependency.

Other problems that alcohol use can trigger

In addition to the direct effects on the physical and mental health of adolescents, alcohol consumption can generate a series of indirect problems derived from the lack of impulse control:

  • Increased likelihood of risky sexual behaviors and, therefore, of disease transmission (STD) or unwanted pregnancies.
  • Increased aggressiveness and violent behavior towards family members, companions or romantic partners.
  • Increased risk of accidents automotive or otherwise.
  • Greater possibility of initiating the use of other substances or drugs and develop addiction to them.
Problematic alcohol use is more likely in adolescents who start at an early age.

How to prevent alcoholism in adolescents?

To prevent alcoholism in adolescents, it is essential that certain measures be taken from home. Despite the existence of prevention campaigns in the media or in schools, parents have a responsibility that goes through the following points:

  • Boost self-esteem and the safety of the adolescent from the first years so that they can make decisions based on their own values.
  • Work on social skills and assertive communication, so that alcohol is not necessary as a means to uninhibit and relate.
  • Talk to the adolescent about the risks of ingestion of alcohol for your health. Instead of banning and demonizing it, explain why it is important to delay consumption at least until your body and brain have developed.
  • Offer healthy leisure alternatives and promote the company of other adolescents who share the same values. Sports or art are very appropriate activities to spend free time.
  • Set an example with your own behavior. It is inconsistent to explain to a young person the serious risks of alcohol while their parents consume it daily or without measure.

Ultimately, teen alcoholism can be extremely harmful, leading to serious long-term consequences. Therefore, if you have children who are close to entering puberty, take advantage of the right occasions to start talking with them. Having the right information will allow them to make better decisions.