The abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol among adolescents continues to be a major global problem, faced by countries all over the world including the US. It is estimated that every year, more than 2.5 million people die due to alcohol-related complications. Excessive alcohol consumption is a growing problem in many countries of the world.
Problems Caused by Alcohol Abuse
The number of people who die because of alcohol abuse is several times more than the number of people killed by the consumption of cocaine, heroin, and other class A drugs. Apart from causing death, alcohol abuse can also have several long-term consequences for the addict as well as for their family and friends. This is because alcohol addiction can lead to violence, criminal behavior, accidents, and many more personal and societal issues.
Alcohol addiction is also hard to treat and quite expensive, which creates a financial burden on society. Due to the cost, a relatively small minority of addicts ever receive treatment for their condition, which further exacerbates the problem.
According to various studies, a high correlation exists between adolescent alcohol abuse and long term addiction and alcoholism during adulthood. This points to the fact that many adult alcoholics started quite early on the path of substance abuse. Adolescent alcohol abuse may also lead to academic under-achievement, teenage pregnancy, depression, and delinquency.
The Need for Prevention and Intervention
Mentioned above are some of the major risk factors associated with adolescent alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is also a leading cause of suicide in teenagers and young adults. Therefore, alcohol prevention programs that minimize the risk factors leading to addiction, through school, family, and community intervention, are the need of the hour. Such school-based prevention programs can play an instrumental role in saving future generations from the ruinous clutches of alcoholism.
Identifying Risk Factors
The first step towards preventing teenage alcoholism is identifying the factors that usually push youngsters towards substance abuse. Many of these factors are modifiable or entirely preventable. Some risk factors associated with adolescent alcohol usage are:
- Early exposure to alcohol and other addictive substances.
- Poor parenting or proximity with alcoholic family members.
- Influence of friends and peer groups.
- Socioeconomic status of the family and the community as a whole.
- Biological or genetic predisposition towards addiction.
- Mental illness among family members or guardians.
Knowing about these risk factors and being aware of their effects on an adolescent is essential for effective alcohol prevention. Schools, community workers, family members, and healthcare professionals can then work together to identify and help at-risk youth as well as trying to minimize the risk factors in their environment. It has also been found that adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect can significantly enhance the risk of teenage alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Prevention Programs
Drug and alcohol prevention programs in schools are extremely essential in the modern world. However, there are certain key factors that need to be present in order for these programs to be effective. Some of the factors that can enhance the effectiveness of an alcohol prevention program have been mentioned below:
- Program coordinators must proactively identify and address risk factors. Students who are thought to be at risk of alcohol abuse or addiction should be counseled and their situation assessed on a one-on-one basis. Then, personalized help and guidance should be provided to these individuals to help them overcome the lure or substance abuse.
- Program coordinators must also provide accurate and developmentally appropriate information to the adolescents, in accordance with their age and maturity levels. No alcohol prevention program can be successful without transparency and the dissemination of accurate and relevant information, as there would be a lack of trust between the teenagers and their mentors.
- Moreover, young adults must be made aware of the various pressures that they might face when it comes to alcohol and drug consumption. Therefore, the alcohol prevention program must help teenagers recognize and resist peer pressure promoting substance abuse. They must be taught how to effectively handle potentially risky situations without succumbing to peer pressure.
- Another important factor when it comes to alcohol prevention is personal and social skill development. Teenagers must be taught how to handle their own negative emotions, such as fear, insecurity, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, without resorting to alcoholism. Moreover, they must be taught effective social skills that will help them avoid alcohol consumption and seek help for any problems that they might be having.
A successful alcohol prevention program must incorporate all or most of the above-mentioned characteristics. Such a program might be delivered to adolescents through schools, community centers, healthcare facilities, etc. According to a 2010 study, both family and community intervention can play a pivotal role in minimizing the risk of adolescent drug and alcohol abuse.
An effective school or community-based alcohol prevention program can change the destiny of individuals and communities as a whole, which makes such programs a very valuable investment in the future of the country and the world.