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Dealing With Alcohol Abuse in Adolescents


Psychiatric diagnosis stipulates that alcohol abuse entails repeated use of alcoholic drinks regardless of their negative effects on the user. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking results in an individual having a Blood Alcohol Concentration [BAC] of 0.08g % and above (NIAAA par.6). The consequences of alcohol abuse include health problems to the user, failure to fulfill social and occupational responsibilities, and sometimes alcohol dependence (Michaud 121). In addition, there are many long-term and short-term risks associated with alcohol abuse. Some of them include violence, accidents leading to bodily harm, engaging in unprotected sex, and financial difficulties.

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Alcohol abuse is a severe problem among college and underage students in the United States. According to NIAAA, alcohol is a popular drug among adolescents under the age of twenty-one. As a result, approximately 5,000 youth die of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and suicide due to heavy drinking. Of the 5,000 victims of underage drinking, 1900 die due to motor vehicle-related accidents and injuries while 1,600 are reported to be victims of homicides after drinking. In addition, 300 deaths result from suicide while the rest are as a result of unintentional injuries sustained after falling or drowning (NIAAA par.5). Most underage students in the United States have been reported to engage in binge drinking within less than two weeks after the last episode. Data collected from 8th graders, 10th graders, and 12th graders indicate that approximately 11%, 22%, and 29% respectively of these underage students drink heavily sometimes taking 4-5 drinks per session (NIAAA par.7). Findings of a survey conducted by NIAAA on 43,000 adults in the United States indicated that beginning to abuse alcohol at an early age can lead to the early development of alcohol-related problems, particularly alcohol dependence.

A survey conducted on students from 140 different colleges indicated that approximately 44% of the subjects engaged in occasional binge drinking. This included 19% who admitted to having been engaged in frequent binge drinking. The results of the study indicated that there is a strong correlation between binge drinking and the tendency of engaging in unprotected sex, getting into trouble with the law enforcers, engaging in unplanned sex, driving while drunk and damaging property, or getting injured (NIAAA par.4). The survey also found out that behavior resulting from binge drinking does not only affect the alcohol abusers but also other students. Some of these secondary alcohol problems relate to the drunken students interrupting studies, being violent, or even raping other non-binge students (NIAAA par.5).

As a result, it is vital for school administrators, education and health officials, and the general public to formulate effective programs and policies aimed at reducing the incidence of binge drinking among college and underage students. In addition, research on the most effective intervention to be applied in learning institutions should be conducted. This arises from the fact that such interventions can result in a significant reduction in binge drinking in these institutions.

The current preventive mechanisms adopted by most learning institutions such as colleges have failed in addressing the problem. Their failure arises from a lack of sound scientific interventions as the key reference point. In addition, the lack of sufficient resources to evaluate the efficiency of these mechanisms has also contributed to their failure (NIAAA par.7). Some of the interventions which have been implemented include the NIAAA’s Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems and the Comprehensive Campus-Community Prevention interventions. However, extensive research on this area is required to produce scientifically grounded data that can support the effectiveness of the available intervention mechanisms.

This research evaluates the various ways through which the public can be incorporated in developing effective interventions aimed at dealing with alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college and underage students in the United States. In addition, it synthesizes and analyzes the priorities and perspectives given by various advocacy organizations in addition to the personal perspective on the issue of alcohol abuse.

Taking the issue of alcohol abuse to the public square

Findings of a study conducted by Bolton-Bronlee reveal that are several reasons which motivate college students to misuse alcohol. Some students consider the use of alcohol as an effective way of connoting their transformation from adolescence to adulthood. Others use alcohol as a way of boosting their public get-togethers and coping with stressful situations (par.1).

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Many parents and law enforcers have reacted to these behaviors by either guaranteeing freedom to the youth or fixing the drinking age to 21 years. However, studies indicate that this has resulted in an increment in the number of motor vehicle accidents due to drunken driving. The accidents lead to physical injuries, financial implications, and loss of productive lives. As a result, various parties such as parents, guardians, school administrators, and law enforcers need to understand the foundations and the outcomes of alcohol abuse among the youth.

The first step entails consideration of alcohol drinking as a major problem among the youth. This can be achieved through the identification of the negative outcomes of drinking such as declining school performance, reduced class attendance, difficulties living with other students in residential rooms, and being involved in destructive activities (Bolton-Brownlee par.3). One can also determine whether drinking is a problem in an individual by identifying the quantity and rate of drinking in an individual.

Students may refrain from drinking during the weekdays until weekends when they have ample free time. Studies indicate that such students tend to drink heavily during these instances. Studies indicate that the main reasons why students abuse alcohol are to reduce stress or to cope with challenging situations. During social gatherings, students get heavily drunk with the intent of outwitting their counterparts. This type of alcohol misuse is referred to as recreational or experimental drinking. However, drinking as a coping mechanism is a serious problem that demands the attention of alcohol educators and counselors (Bolton-Brownlee par.5).

The second step involves understanding other factors related to problematic drinking. Personality and gender have been cited as being critical in identifying problematic drinking. Some of the reasons why students engage themselves in heavy drinking include escaping from problems or being less interested in academic success. In most cases, these parties always seek self-independence.

Gender differences suggest that males are more bound to be heavy drinkers compared to their female counterparts. In addition, peer, family, and environmental predispositions contribute to an individual’s drinking habits. Most of the heavy drinking cases have been reported among on-campus students compared to students living off-campus. This has been attributed to the result of influence by their peers on campus. Thus, identifying the various factors which contribute to a difference in drinking habits among on-campus students would provide significant insight into the causes of binge drinking (NIAAA par.15).

The priorities and perspectives of various Advocacy groups on the issue of alcohol abuse

Institutions such as the NIAAA have taken many measures such as introducing the Rapid Response to College Drinking Problems. This program is aimed at developing a link between school administrators, NIAAA specialists, and other well-established organizations to provide speedy responses to alcohol-related problems in learning institutions (DeJong et al 5). The program has resulted in solidification of the link between the NIAAA’s research on alcohol abuse and the school-based practices aimed at addressing the problem of alcohol abuse among students. However, the rate of college drinking remains high thus demanding additional scientific research on the issue (DeJong et al 11).

A research study conducted to estimate the mortality and morbidity rates among college students aged between 18 to 24 years which resulted from alcohol-related problems indicated that the rates had increased by 3% per 100,000 within 7 years (Hingson et al 12). It was thus proposed that there was a need to introduce prevention and counseling mechanisms that are verifiable through research to reduce the rates. This is in line with NIAAA’s scientifically grounded interventions for addressing the problems (Hingson et al 20). In another study aimed at assessing an inclusive campus-community preclusion intercession to lessen alcohol-related problems among college students in Western Washington University neighborhoods organizing student activities such as parties, it was revealed that increasing the rate of party patrols helped in reducing underage alcohol abuse among partygoers (Saltz et al 12). The program incorporated community and campus-based regulations and website information provided to students to learn how to live safely within the laws governing the neighborhood. Unlike earlier interventions which emphasized on employment of scientifically grounded interventions in addressing the problem, these alcohol control regulations proved that they could help reduce the rates of college drinking if carefully designed and implemented (Saltz et al 27).

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For colleges and universities to receive federal assistance in form of funding, it was a requirement that the institutions provide online information regarding the institutions’ alcohol policies to both the students and parents (Faden et al 28). In a follow-up study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of this model of intervention, the results indicated that more than 52 universities provided such services to students particularly in areas providing the rules, consequences of violating the rules, and other restrictions. These findings indicate that colleges and universities are employing a different approach in providing information to students, parents, and other stakeholders concerning the existing alcohol policies. This approach is easier to access and evaluate compared to the previous interventions (Faden et al 33). Finally, this research identifies several scientifically testable interventions that can be employed in addressing areas of inadequate information and understanding regarding the issue of alcohol abuse. Some of these include genetically transferrable genes related to alcoholism and other predisposing factors such as those existing among children born and raised by alcoholic mothers.

Works Cited

Bolton-Brownlee, Ann. Alcohol use among college students: highlights. ERIC/CAPS Digest, 1987. Web.

DeJong, William, Larimer, Mary, Wood, Mark and Hartman, Roger. NIAAA’s rapid response to college drinking problems initiative: reinforcing the use of evidence-based approaches in college alcohol prevention. J Stud Alcohol Drug Suppl., 2009; 16: 5-11.

Faden, Vivian, Corey, Kristen and Baskin, Marcy. An evaluation of college online alcohol-policy information: 2007 compared with 2002. J Stud Alcohol Drugs Suppl., 2009; 16: 28-33.

Hingson, Ralph, Zha, Wenxing and Weitzman. Magnitude of and trends in alcohol related Mortality and Morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24, 1998-2005. J Stud Alcohol Drugs Suppl., 2009; 16: 12-20.

Michaud, Peter. Alcohol misuse in adolescents – a challenge for general practitioners. Ther Umsch, 2007; 64 (2): 121–6.

NIAAA. Underage drinking research initiative. USA, Department of Health: National Institute of Health, 2010. Web.

NIAAA. Prevention of alcohol-related problems among college students. Department of education: SAMHSA Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, 1998. Web.

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Saltz, Robert, Welker, Lara, Paschall, Mallie, Feeney, Maggie and Fabiano,

Patricia. Evaluating a comprehensive campus-community preventing intervention to reduce alcohol-related problems in a college population. J Stud Alcohol Drugs Suppl., 2009; 16: 21-27.

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