Alcoholism means compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages which is harmful to drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness. In psychiatry, several other terms are used, specifically “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence” which have slightly different definitions. Here are some of the factors that leads an alcoholic towards the bottle.
Alcohol is accepted and encouraged in many instances; it is advertised through the media and in restaurants and bars. Although the legal drinking age in India is 18, it is socially acceptable to drink alcohol and it is perceived as normal behaviour.
In social settings, friends may dare each other to drink. In the workforce, co-workers may incorporate alcohol into their after-work activities. These settings are high-pressured environments that can create the urge to drink. For example, it is not uncommon for an employee to have a bad day, or maybe just a long day and afterwards decide to go to a bar to have a couple of drinks and unwind. Often, this person will want to do a bit of recruitment: “Oh, come on… it’s been a long day. Just have one or two”. Generally, the recruiter will find someone who takes the bait. The teenager at a party wants to get drunk so he encourages his friend to do so as well, that way he will not feel like a loser drinking on his own; the co-worker wants to let loose but, similarly, does not want to drink alone so he pressures his co-worker into joining him. Both are instances of preying upon many individual instinctive desires to please others.
Drinking alcohol can make the individual feel relaxed and less inhibited. Individuals who are shy or inhibited may use alcohol as a means of overcoming these traits. Whatever the situation, people will often use alcohol to lose their inhibitions and to feel more comfortable in situations where they otherwise might not. Alcohol is a wonderful, temporary social lubricant. The word “temporary” is used because these effects are short-lived and, quite often, the person drinking becomes too uninhibited and begins to behave in an inappropriate, embarrassing or obnoxious manner.
When stressed, some people turn to alcohol as a way of relieving their problems. This is only a temporary solution, because it does not eradicate the issues.
Means of Escape: Boredom or depression can cause an individual to drink alcohol; his goal is to escape from these feelings. Long-term drinking coupled with borderline abusive behaviour can intensify an individual's need for escapism.
Traits and Influences
A teen with an alcoholic sibling or parent is four times more likely to develop a problem with alcohol than someone without such a family history.
The presence of mental health disorders: Alcohol problems often go hand-in-hand with mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
Personality traits: Teenagers who believe alcohol makes it easier to socialize, for example, tend to drink more than those who don’t believe that alcohol loosens their social inhibitions.
Influence of family and peers: Teens are at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems when alcohol is readily available at home or among their peer group, and if drunkenness is acceptable.
Gender: Men are more likely to drink heavily than women, but women become addicted at lower levels and shorter duration of use.
Top 8 Reasons Why Teens Try Alcohol and Drugs
There is no single reason for teenage drug use and alcohol use. Dr. Neil I. Bernstein in How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do if You Can't, details some of the core issues and influences behind teenage drug and alcohol use. It’s important that you, as a parent, understand these reasons and talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking and using drugs.
1. Other People — Teenagers see lots of people using various substances. They see their parents and other adults drinking alcohol, smoking, and, sometimes, abusing other substances. Also, the teen social scene often revolves around drinking and smoking pot (marijuana). Sometimes friends urge one another to try a drink or smoke something, but it's just as common for teens to start using a substance because it’s readily available and they see all their friends enjoying it. In their minds, they see drug use as a part of the normal teenage experience.
2. Popular Media — Forty-two percent of teens agreed that movies and TV shows make drugs seem like an okay thing to do, according to a 2003 study. Not surprisingly, 12- to 17-year-olds who viewed three or more "R" rated movies per month were seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes, six times more likely to use marijuana, and five times more likely to drink alcohol, compared to those who hadn’t watched "R" rated films (Amy Khan, 2005).
3. Escape and Self-Medication — When teens are unhappy and cannot find a healthy outlet for their frustration or a trusted confidant, they may turn to chemicals instead. Depending on what substance they're using, they may feel blissfully oblivious, wonderfully happy, or energized and confident. The often rough teenage years can take an emotional toll on children, sometimes even causing depression, so when teens are given a chance to take something to make them feel better, many can’t resist.
4. Boredom — Teens who cannot tolerate being alone, have trouble keeping themselves occupied, or crave excitement are prime candidates for substance abuse. Not only do alcohol and marijuana give them something to do, but those substances help fill the internal void they feel. Further, they provide a common ground for interacting with like-minded teens, a way to instantly bond with a group of kids.
5. Rebellion — Different rebellious teens choose different substances to use based on their personalities. Alcohol is the drug of choice for the angry teenager because it frees him to behave aggressively. Methamphetamine, or meth, also encourages aggressive, violent behaviour, and can be far more dangerous and potent than alcohol. Marijuana, on the other hand, often seems to reduce aggression and is more of an avoidance drug. LSD and hallucinogens are also escape drugs, often used by young people who feel misunderstood and may long to escape to a more idealistic, kind world. Smoking cigarettes can be a form of rebellion to flaunt their independence and make their parents angry. The reasons for teenage drug-use are as complex as teenagers themselves.
6. Instant Gratification — Drugs and alcohol work quickly. The initial effects feel really good. Teenagers turn to drug use because they see it as a short-term shortcut to happiness.
7. Lack of Confidence — Many shy teenagers who lack confidence report that they’ll do things under the influence of alcohol or drugs that they might not otherwise. This is part of the appeal of drugs and alcohol even for relatively self confident teens; you have the courage to dance if you're a bad dancer, or sing at the top of your lungs even if you have a terrible voice, or kiss the girl you’re attracted to. And alcohol and other drugs tend not only to loosen your inhibitions but to alleviate social anxiety. Not only do you have something in common with the other people around you, but there's the mentality that if you do anything or say anything stupid, everyone will just think you had too many drinks or smoked too much weed.
8. Misinformation — Perhaps the most avoidable cause of substance abuse is inaccurate information about drugs and alcohol. Nearly every teenager has friends who claim to be experts on various recreational substances, and they're happy to assure that the risks are minimal. Educate your teenager about drug use, so they get the real facts about the dangers of drug use.