Over the years, many researchers have dedicated their time and energy to study adolescent alcohol abuse. They have found that there are many factors that contribute to adolescent alcohol abuse. These factors are psychological, environmental, social, and cultural. Not all of these factors play a part in every adolescent who abuses alcohol, but one of these factors is usually present. Psychological disorders have been found in both American, and Taiwan adolescents who abuse alcohol. The health risks of adolescent alcohol abuse are great. Alcohol affects the physiology of a young person.
It disrupts the genetics and hormonal balances that are critical in the early development of youngsters. Treatment of alcohol abuse is a great state of change and development. Many therapists, doctors and counselors are trying to incorporate new treatment ideas and methods into the traditional techniques that have been used for years now. It is important to research the factors that contribute to adolescent alcohol abuse because if these factors are detected early, and an adolescent is put into a prevention program the likelihood that they will abuse alcohol will greatly decrease. Psychological Factors
According to the research, there have been many psychological problems found in adolescents who abuse alcohol. The majority of the research has been done in order to solve the question of whether or not these psychological factors are present before an adolescent abuses alcohol, or after the alcohol abuse has occurred. In the research done by Rhode, Lewinsohn, and Seeley (1996), they used a community sample of 1,507 adolescents between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. The adolescents were classified into the categories of abstainers, experimenters, social drinkers, problem drinkers, and abuse and/or dependent groups.
In this study, 373 subjects met the criteria for depression, 15 were bipolar, 93 suffered from manic core symptoms, and 124 had an anxiety disorder (Rhode et al. , 1996). Furthermore, anxiety disorder and depression were psychological disorders that were more prevalent in female adolescents with alcohol abuse than their male counterparts. Males who abused alcohol tended to suffer from antisocial personality disorder. It is believed that females who suffer from anxiety disorder or depression use alcohol as a self-medication to make them feel better.
According to Clark, and Bukstein (1998), one form of antisocial disorder known as conduct disorder lead adolescents to act out and seek out new experiences. This is probably the reason why adolescent males with an antisocial disorder turn to alcohol abuse. According to Rhode (et al. , 1996), “More than 80% of adolescents with an alcohol use disorder had another psychiatric disorder…. ” (p. 106). In his study, the alcohol abuse tended to follow rather than proceed the psychiatric disorder. From this, it can be concluded that certain psychological disorders such as antisocial disorder, and depression are a factor in adolescent alcohol abuse.
Environmental Factors Many studies have focused on the environmental factors that adolescents are exposed to, and how these factors lead to alcohol abuse. The aim of a study performed by Clark, Lesnick, and Hegedus (1997), “Was to examine trauma history and other adverse life events in adolescents with alcohol dependence or abuse and to compare them with a sample of community-dwelling adolescents without alcohol use disorder” (p. 1746). This study included 256 adolescents between the ages of fourteen and eighteen (Clark et al. , 1997). Adolescents who abused, or were dependent on alcohol reported more traumas then those in the control group.
The types of abuse experienced by males and females tended to differ. Females experienced more sexual abuse, and males tended to be victims of violent acts. Both sexual abuse victims, and victims of violent acts showed increased amounts of alcohol use than those adolescents who were not abused in any way. If subjects experienced a number of traumas, they tended to abuse alcohol more than those that experienced only one trauma or no trauma at all. From this study, it can be concluded that trauma and abuse leads to adolescent alcohol abuse. Social Factors
A study done on Hispanic and Black adolescents in the New York inner cities concluded that there were indeed social factors that contributed to adolescent alcohol abuse. The study used a sample of 4,874 Hispanic and African American seventh graders. The purpose of the study was to identify the social risk factors that promote adolescent alcohol abuse in Hispanic and African American (Epstein, Botvin, Baker, & Diaz, 1999). If an adolescent’s friends tended to drink on a consistent basis, he/she showed a greater amount of alcohol abuse than those who did not associate with friends who did drink alcohol.
Also, family members play a major part in adolescent alcohol abuse. The family is another social factor that contributes to adolescent alcohol abuse. If an adolescent saw their parent consume alcohol, they also tended to abuse alcohol. Parents were not the only family members that influenced adolescent alcohol abuse; siblings also had an influence. If a sibling abused alcohol, the adolescent models this abuse. Their findings were present in both Hispanic and African American adolescents. Cultural factors
In the study done by Epstein and her collogues, cultural differences were also a factor in adolescent with alcohol abuse. According to Epstein (et al. , 1999), “Hispanic adolescents consumed more alcohol per drinking occasion and had greater intention to drink in the future than black adolescents. This was true when the models were tested separately for girls and boys” (p. 16). The use of alcohol among Hispanics could be due to the fact that it may be a cultural practice that allows an adolescent to identify with their culture. Religion is another cultural factor that plays a role in adolescent alcohol abuse.
African American religions consider the consumption of alcohol a sin, so if an African American practices in their religion they are less likely to abuse alcohol than someone who does not practice their religion. However, this was not a factor for Hispanic adolescent alcohol abuse. A final cultural difference may be that more Hispanic adolescents have immigrated to this country in past years than black adolescents have. Therefore Hispanic adolescents have had the added stress of adapting to a new society. In turn Hispanic adolescents turn to alcohol abuse as a way of coping with their increased stress. Taiwan
All of the studies mentioned above were performed in the United States. However, there have been studies done in other countries on adolescent alcohol abuse. One study was done on adolescents living in Taiwan. The results were very interesting. Many of the factors that are presents in American adolescents were also found in adolescents living in Taiwan. According to Chong, Chan, and Cheng (1999), “Among those successfully interviewed, 411 were males and 363 were females. Their mean age was 15. 23 years” (p. 1389). Like American adolescents who abused alcohol, Taiwan adolescents also had psychological factors presents.
The most common psychological disorders found in Taiwan adolescents were disruptive behavior disorder, depression, and antisocial disorder. These disorders were also present in American adolescents. Alcoholism and Health Adolescent alcohol abuse is recognized as a major health concern in the United States. According to Arria and Tarter (1991), “It is likely that an older adolescents who first consumed alcohol in the preteen years will experience greater alcohol-related medical complications than will an adolescent who has been drinking for a shorter period of time” (p. 52).
Although the length of time that an adolescent has been drinking is a major factor related to health, it is not the only one. Other factors may include how much alcohol is consumed at one sitting, and just what age the adolescent began to drink. Very heavy drinking may cause accidental injury. And, drinking at an early age may cause gross developmental complications. Arriea and Tarter (1991) noted that many adolescents also experiment with other drugs, while they are under the influence of alcohol. Other drugs may range from marijuana to crack cocaine and LSD. Using alcohol and other drugs combined can cause serious health risks and concerns.
One major concern of adolescent alcohol abuse is the effects that abuse has on puberty. The results of the abuse may be most prevalent in the growth of the adolescent. It has been shown in both human and animal studies that alcohol consumption can stunt the physical growth of an adolescent approaching and during puberty. Arriea and Tarter (1991), stated that, “normal physical growth is dependant on a complex interaction between genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences” (P. 53). Alcohol severely effects this interaction. Treatment Whenever we talk about alcohol abuse with adolescents, we must talk about the treatment.
Without proper treatment, the adolescent will end up in the same place over and over again. In the study done by Bukstein (1994), he stated that, “treatment for adolescents currently are undergoing rapid changes,, by reducing their costs and emphasizing less restrictive treatment modalities” (p. 298). Many of the longer 28 or 38 day inpatient programs are being transformed into outpatient or partial hospitalization plans. Because these shorter programs have not been around long enough to gather information for testing, it is unable to tell if they are going to have any kind of affect on the adolescent’s rehabilitation.
I feel that these cuts will have a negative effect on the treatment of youngsters. I think that these shorter programs may work for adults, but they will not work well with the adolescents because of the emotional immaturity present in young people. While many researchers believe that traditional treatment programs are the key, there has been some interest in alternative programs. According to Bukstein (1994), many programs are beginning to integrate an array of, “family or behavioral treatments, health services, vocational and educational services, and recreational activities in addition to 12-step principles” (p. 99). This kind of treatment combines traditional 12-step programs with new innovative ideas of reaching the child through various activities. Once again, this kind of treatment is not yet able to be tested because of its immaturity. It will be very interesting to see what kind of affect this treatment will have. Conclusion There are many factors that contribute to adolescent alcohol abuse. These factors may be psychological, environmental, social, or cultural. If these factors were detected in an adolescent at an early age, it could prevent the adolescent form abusing alcohol.
Health problems due to heavy alcohol abuse could also be prevented if these factors are detected early enough. Treatment is a crucial part of dealing with an adolescent that is suffering from alcohol abuse. I believe that much research must be done to ensure that methods are being executed properly. There has been some effort to combine new treatment with traditional ones. I believe that this is a good thing. It will be interesting to see if this new treatment will help.