When children and teenagers begin using alcohol, they have a higher risk of developing an addiction to the substance. According to Help Guide, more than 1/2 of the children between 12 and 20 have tried drinking alcohol. The average ages for boys to try drinking is 11 and the average age for girls is 13, says Help Guide. Recognizing the reasons why underage drinking can lead to life-long problems can be an essential part of helping a loved one avoid alcohol.
Why Teenagers Use Alcohol
The reasons that teenagers use or abuse alcohol can be different from the causes of substance abuse among adults. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc., or NCADD, teenagers and children can have multiple reasons for trying or using alcohol. The reasons may include:
- Peer pressure
- Family issues or concerns
- Stress from school
- Stress from other sources
- Traumatic experiences
- Low self-esteem or low feelings of self-worth
- Attempting to fit in or make friends after moving
While the reasons can be complex, the NCADD says that it is very dangerous for physical and emotional health. Teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors when they drink alcohol and the NCADD explains that teenagers who drink by 15 are roughly 5 times more likely to have drinking problems in adulthood.
Impact on the Brain
A key reason that addiction may develop is the impact of the alcohol on the brain. According to the National Institutes on Health, there is a significant impact on long-term thinking abilities and memory when teenagers and children abuse alcohol. Even though the effects may not seem significant and the National Institutes on Health state that the subtle changes and effects are not fully understood, alcohol abuse during development can be a complex problem.
When alcohol is abused at a young age, the impairments that occur in the brain can persist for many years, says the National Institutes on Health. The brain is altered because it is still developing during childhood and the teen years. In general, the human brain is not fully developed until after 20 years old, so underage drinking can impact the way that the brain develops.
Impact on Hormones
Alcohol can impact the hormones throughout the body, which causes a variety of complications when it relates to addiction. Depending on the individual, the exact impact on hormones can vary slightly; however, there are some potential concerns that may develop.
Since the hormones are effected, the risks that may arise include:
- Other mental health disorders
Alcohol abuse can make any underlying mental health disorders more likely to develop. When an individual develops a mental health disorder, he or she is more likely to continue abusing the substance in an effort to reduce the effects of the mental health disorder.
Physical dependence can develop when a teenager uses alcohol for an extended period of time. Since a young adult or teenager may develop withdrawal symptoms, it may be difficult to stop using the alcohol in the future.
Even though alcohol is a legal substance for adults, it can be dangerous and addictive. When teenagers or children use alcohol, they have a higher risk of developing an addiction to the substance or problems with drinking in adulthood. Parents can help reduce the risk by openly talking about alcohol abuse, the risks associated with underage drinking and the concerns that may contribute to substance abuse.