Ways to Understand and Prevent Adolescent Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among adolescents. This trend also is directly related to much broader social problems. This is because a strong relationship seems to exist between alcohol use among young people and a number of emotional, social, behavior-related issues such as drug addiction, street fights, theft, drunk driving, depression, suicide, and murder.

Studies show that initiation of alcohol consumption at an early age is associated with alcohol-related problems later in life. Youth who start to drink before they reach 15 years are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence during their lifetime than are people who begin drinking at age 21 or later. This suggests the importance of delaying the initial use of alcohol among young people in order to better protect their immediate and long-term health.

Scientists also studied the causes of alcohol abuse by applying the Theory of Triadic Influence, which is a combination of several behavioral theories. The theory is based on the understanding that all behaviors of any individual have their roots in three domains. These are personal characteristics, current social situation, and cultural environment. 

Applying the behavioral theory to alcohol use, these are the findings for each of the three domains: 

Personal characteristics: Personal factors that influence the use of alcohol at an early age include rebellious behavior, independence and nonconformance, low achievement in school, positive attitudes about alcohol consumption, and lack of self-control to avoid alcohol when offered. 

Social influences: Societal factors that contribute to alcohol use by adolescents are low socioeconomic status, parental education levels, conflict and disruptions in the family, permissiveness and low parental supervision, family history of alcoholism, perceived adult approval of alcohol use and peer circle where alcohol use is encouraged. 

Environmental influences: The key environmental factors for youth alcohol use are the cultural norms as well as legal, economic, and physical access to alcohol. 

Based on a better understanding of these factors and a critical assessment of results from the behavioral theory, revised guidance is developed. The focus of the recommendations has been broadened from the initial focus on individual personality characteristics alone to the social world of the youth (family and peers) and to environmental factors (such as community, social norms, and availability).

An assessment of some of the guidance and interventions indicates that peer programs that incorporated social and life skills training, including refusal skills are highly effective in reducing alcohol use among adolescents. Alternative programs that included the provision of positive activities such as sport that are more appealing to the youth than alcohol and drug use were also found to be effective.

For more information check out: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-1/5-14.htm 

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