Alcohol and Teens
From pastures to unsupervised blowouts at home, the social calendars of most teens are full of alcohol. Other drugs rise and fall in popularity from generation to generation, but alcohol never really goes out of style. From being worshiped by the ancient Babylonians to being forbidden to teenagers, alcohol has caused many problems. Today, drinking is the drug of choice by teens and causes most wrecks and deaths today. To understand alcohol people must first know the history of alcohol, the effects of teen drinking, and the
solutions to teen drinking.
Alcohol has been all around the world for centuries and has become a custom of people all over. No one knows for sure who discovered alcohol, but we know how different types of alcohol are made. Just as well, no know knows when alcohol was discovered. There are no records of the discovery or discoverers of alcohol. Although historians do know alcohol “was used by primitive people and recorded as early as 10,000 years ago in the Neolithic period and by European civilization”(Milgram 22). As early as 5000 B.C., the ancient Babylonians brewed, the process of making beer, their beer in religious temples because it was considered a gift from God. Beer is an alcoholic beverage made by fermentation of cereal grains such as, wheat, rye, corn, or barley; beer contains 3 to 6 percent alcohol. Besides the ancient Babylonians, the ancient Egyptians drank beer. The Egyptians called their beer hek, which was made from barley bread. The bread was crumbled into jars, covered with water, and allowed to ferment. The Egyptian pharaohs blessed this beer in the honor of the goddess of nature, Isis. Egyptians handed out free jugs of beer to peasant workers, and by no surprise drunkenness was a common problem in ancient Egypt (Nielsen 13).
The strongest alcohol drinks are called liquors or spirits. An Arabian alchemist named Geber discovered liquor in the eighteenth century A.D. Geber made liquor by distillation, burning away the impurities that formed in wine during fermentation and isolated the remaining liquids. As a result, the concentrated liquid had a higher alcoholic content, which was “mainly flavored alcohol and water”(Milgram 65). Arnaud de Villanueva discovered liquor in Europe 500 years later, when he made brandy. Arnaud claimed that brandy would cure all humanity’s diseases, prolong life, maintain youth, and clear away ill humor. In the 1600’s gin, akravit, and whiskey were discovered in many other countries. Then in the 1700’s, the Americans invented bourbon.
Teenagers rarely think before they do many things. Many times teenagers go to big blowouts or little get togethers with their friends. Their first thought is not about death, their grades, or alcoholism; their main purpose is to get drunk fast and sober up before going home by their set curfews. At parties, teenagers have an average of five or more beers in one night. In the United States teenage drinking has become a major problem, with about 3.3 million teens as problem drinkers. “One-fourth of all seventh through twelfth graders admit to drinking at least once a week”(Nielson 47). About forty percent of twelfth graders said they had one episode of heavy drinking in the past two weeks. Although no one knows why teens turn to drinking, various studies show that the amount of alcohol changes by their geographical location (Nielsen 47).
One major problem with teens and alcohol is death. Many teenagers go to parties and drive home thinking that everything is all right, but “twenty- one percent of young drivers involved in fatal crashes have been drinking” (MADD 1). On a normal weekend, an average of one teenager dies in a car crash every hour, and nearly fifty percent of these crashes were involved with alcohol. “Uses of alcohol and other drugs are associated with the leading causes of death and injury among teenagers and young adults” (NCADD 1). Not only do car wrecks kill teenagers, so does compulsive drinking. Alcohol, a depressant on the central nervous system, is detectable when someone begins to have slurred speech, slow reaction time, or staggered walking (Milgram 20). The more a person drinks the higher the risk of having an alcohol over dose. Some signs of an overdose are “mental confusion, stupor, coma, seizures, bluish skin color, low body temperature, slow or irregular breathing, and vomiting while sleeping”(Alcohol Education Program 4). If these symptoms appear, call 911 for an ambulance, but never leave the victim alone.
Excessive drinking, it can lead to teenage alcoholism. People who begin drinking at the age of 15 are four-times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who start drinking at the age of 21. Most teens take their first drinks at the age of 13. Alcoholism begins by first tasting, then social drinking, next abusive drinking, and last becoming a problem drinker or alcoholic. Many factors such as age, gender, and location, indicate that economic factors have little effects on teens (Nielsen 50). Most teenagers do not know why they drink but most do anyway. Peer pressure has a lot to do with teen drinking, as well as the people they hang out with. Teens turn to alcohol or other drugs when they are depressed or they try to fit in. By doing this, they become alcoholics.
Under-age drinking is not an issue that is being ignored. The government, parents, groups, and other countries are trying to come up with solutions to teen drinking. Many laws have already been passed to stop teenagers from drinking.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed into law on July 17, 1984 by President Reagan. The act strongly encourages states to have laws prohibiting the “purchase and public possession” of alcoholic beverages by anyone under 21 years of age by withholding a portion of federal-aid highway funds from state without such laws. On March 26, 1986, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations and the Federal Highway Administration published a joint rule implementing the statue. (Net Biz 1)
Most U.S. states have the Age- 21 law, but in Louisiana you can be 19 to enter a bar. Because of this law, the youth drinks less and statistics have gone down a little. With the technology that we have today, many youth, from 20 to 35 percent, have possession of a fake identification. In Texas, having a fake identification is a third degree felony and will be subject to an automatic license suspension of 90 days to a year and a fine of up to $5000. Another law in Texas that helps cut down teenage drinking is the curfew. This law says teens cannot drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless accomplished by a licensed driver 21 years old or older. If a teen is stopped past curfew, that teen is not eligible for a full driver’s license until the age of 18, and they cannot have an alcohol or drug convection within six months of applications. In addition, the government placed pricing and taxation regulations on the sales of alcohol. “Regulation through pricing and taxations is unpopular with both the public and the liquor industry, but while the impact is inconclusive, there seems to be evidence that such regulations do have some beneficial effects” (O’Brien, Chafetz, and Cohen 34). The amount of taxes collected from alcohol sales places second as a source of revenue for the government (Milgram 37).
Parents can also help stop teen drinking by talking to their children about the dangers of drinking and using other drugs. Although most parents help their children by paying their fines, they can also help by keeping their children under lock and key with no privileges. “Teenagers whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs are forty-two percent less likely to use drugs than those whose parents who do not” (NCADD 4). Talking to their teen is the best way to affect them. Also, when teens break a rule, punishments are to be spelled out and carried out. In conjunction with talking to their teenagers, parents can encourage high self-esteem and set good examples.
Along with parents, groups can help fight against teenage drinking. A popular group is MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. This group tries to pass persuade the government to pass laws to help lower drinking and driving. MADD thrives to make statistics public and get more people to join the fight against drinking and driving. Another group similar to MADD is SADD, Students Against Drunk Driving. This is a group of students that fight against drinking and driving, and encourage other teens to stay sober. A teacher that lost two of his students to drunk driving started this group. “Students who belong to SADD sign a contract promising not to drink and drive” (Nielsen 101). These students also wear stickers and buttons that persuade other students not to drink and drive. If okayed by the principal, SADD hangs up posters around the schools, warning students of drinking and driving before an event or holiday. A program to help teen alcoholics is Alcoholics Anonymous. Teens are treated differently while in this program. While in AA, teenagers have special needs such as finishing schools, learning dating skills, and choosing a career. Teens can also go to half- way houses, after they finish treatment for alcoholism, where they can meet new friends.
Other countries can also help by raising their drinking age to 21 years of age. Many places in the world a person must be 18 to drink, but in Germany he or she only has to be 16 (Net Biz 1). Canada has made it legal for people 18 and older to drink, but they also have the stiff minimum penalties for driving under the influence. Since that law, drinking offenses have plunged twenty-three percent. Along with Canada, “drunken drivers in Finland, Sweden, England, and France receive automatic jail sentences and lose their licenses for at lease a year” (Neilson 61). If other countries would raise drinking to age 21, then it would be tough for teenagers to get their alcohol. It is easy for teenagers that live in states bordering Canada or Mexico to bootleg across the border to the United States. By raising the age limits to 21 in Mexico and Canada, it would help cut down on teenage drinking.
Everyday teenagers drink, despite the many dangers and risks that they are taking every time they drink. Throughout history and probably in the future, alcohol will be the leading drug of choice for teenagers. On the other hand, teenagers in turn are becoming better educated about themselves and the risk of alcohol.
“Alcohol Education Program For Minors.” Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Drinking Driving and Other Drugs. Homepage. 20 June 2001. ;http://www.madd.org/under21/default.shtml;
Milgram, Gail. Coping with Alcohol. New York: The Boston Publishing Group1987.
NCADD. Youth, Alcohol, and Other Drugs. Homepage. 20 June 2001. ;http://www.ncadd.org/facts/youthalc.html;
“Net Biz Mentor.” Underage Drinking. Homepage. 20 June 2001. ;http://www.nbmentor.com/law/Test/underagedrinking/index.html;
Nielson, Nancy. Teen Alcoholism. San Diego: Lucent Books, Inc., 1990.
O’Brien, Robert, Morris Chafetz, Sidney Cohen. Understanding Alcohol And Other Drugs. Vol. 1. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1999.