Why is alcohol dangerous for young people?

We probably all know that drinking a lot of alcohol isn’t good for us. But what people perhaps don’t know is that it is more dangerous to drink when you’re young. Here are some of the biggest hazards associated with drinking in your teens.

It can cause greater physical harm

Even small amounts of alcohol have a negative effect on your judgement, cognitive ability, memory and reaction speeds. We’re probably all aware that alcohol damages the brain, whatever our age, but young people’s brains are even more sensitive than adults, simply because this particular organ continues developing all the way up to the age of 25 or so. Body size plays a part, too. A small body contains less fluid with which to dilute the alcohol, which means you will get drunk more quickly.

Young people’s brains haven’t finished developing, which means they’re hit substantially harder by the harmful effects of alcohol than someone who starts drinking at a later age.

Sven Wåhlin, Senior Physician, Stockholm Centre for Dependency Disorders

They are less able to weigh up consequences

Most adults can see the consequences of their drinking. Young people are less able to judge when they’ve had enough, and often get far too drunk far too quickly. It often takes no more than a few years for teenagers who drink heavily to become addicted. For adults, it usually takes longer, and it can be easier for them to spot the warning signs and stop what they’re doing.

It can damage their self-esteem

As if it weren’t enough that your body’s developing at a fast rate in your teens, it’s a delicate time for your personality, too. Your teens are when you develop your self-esteem – how you think about yourself and your sense of who you are, in other words. If you get used to doing certain 14 things a certain way – like always chatting to people, flirting and having fun with a glass or bottle in your hand – there’s a real risk that you will always need to get drunk before you have the courage to do these things. A lot of people might feel, initially at least, that the alcohol improves their self-confidence and makes things easier, but in the long run, it damages their self-esteem. It can make them avoid doing the sort of things they’d actually like to do, but for which they don’t quite have the nerve – or make them do things more for other people’s sakes than for their own.

They can end up in trouble

Alcohol and violence go hand in hand. Alcohol is involved in almost 6 out of every 10 cases of physical violence – either the person committing the violence or the person being attacked (or both) are intoxicated. The risk of all sorts of serious accidents increases, because when you’re drunk, your brain doesn’t work as well as it usually does. Accidents involving falls, burns or drowning, to mention just a few examples. But alcohol can lead to potentially serious interpersonal problems, too: teenagers have told surveys that when they were drunk, they got into fights with their friends, had sex when they didn’t really want to, or had unprotected sex.

Increased risk of road traffic accidents

The risk of an accident increases when the non-sober driver has a blood alcohol concentration of just 0.2 promille. So even if your teenager isn’t the one driving, it’s vitally important that he or she doesn’t ride with a driver who’s been drinking alcohol. 13 per cent of ninth graders state that they have done precisely that. And when it comes to mopeds, there’s another statistic that might give you pause for thought: in fatal accidents where the driver was under 18 years of age, half of all mopeds had been tuned up and three in every five moped riders killed were under the influence of alcohol. It’s really important to stress to your teenager that they should never ride with a driver who’s been drinking, and to make sure that they leave their moped at home when they’re going to a party.

Early debutants can have problems later in life

The vast majority of those who drink heavily in their teens cut down as they get older. But it’s very easy for the drinking habits you acquire as a teenager to stay with you throughout your life. And there’s also an increased risk that teenagers who drink will also try other drugs, such as tobacco or narcotics.

More to read about the same topic

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

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