Alcohol can be found just about any place. It is in the corner store, our homes, in restaurants, on TV and in the movies. Drinking for the most part is shown as a social activity, something you do to have fun and fit in. There are scenes of underage drinking in a large number of movies and some TV shows. Advertisers tie alcohol with looking good, popularity and sexuality. The first alcoholic drink is also seen as right of passage, going from childhood to adulthood. We even give our kids non-alcoholic versions of our drinks. With all this positive imagery of alcohol, what is the influence of alcohol on teen life?
Drinking alcohol is perceived to be a positive non-harmful social part of being an adult. All teens want to be seen as adults, drinking is doing something reserved for adults, so by drinking you are doing something an adult would do. It is also an easy way to rebel, you don’t think I am an adult so I am going to drink to show you how much of an adult I am. This lets them do some thing that is against the rules but at the same time an adult thing to do. Teenagers will often boast about how much they drank showing how much of an adult they are. Other teens turn to alcohol to escape the reality of their lives, be it pain or boredom. Once a teenager has a drink it is easer to take the next one. They get a quick buzz and it feels good, they think they are having the best time ever. Drinking becomes associated with having fun, and soon drinking becomes the fun.
Being able to provide alcohol to friends and at parties can improve a teens social standing, they are seen as being more mature and are popular because they have the alcohol. People say that drinking will relax you, loosen you up, and let you have more fun. So a shy teenager will drink to feel more sociable, a teenager with low self-esteem will drink to feel more popular or to just fit in and others will drink just because everyone else is. Also it is not a lot of fun being sober around a bunch of drunks, it is easer to have fun with them when you are drunk to. Yes all teenagers understand that there is a legal age that they can go to bars and drink alcohol. At the same time though they see themselves as adults and don’t understand why they cannot drink alcohol legally. It becomes a challenge or a game to beat the system, to get fake ID and get into bars or clubs, or buy alcohol at the corner store. If you can get away with it then you are proving how much of an adult you are. Your actual age is not that important, what you can get away with is.
Drinking alcohol is a status symbol when you are a teenager. Though fortunately the idea of drinking responsible is also reaching teenagers. It is not cool to drink and drive. Unfortunately drinking competitions are still popular, the more you can drink the better. In some cases the faster you can chug a beer is what is seen as being the best. This leads to drinking until you pass out and in some cases get alcohol poisoning. It is easy to see how teenagers can quickly become alcoholics. Alcohol is seen as positive, is easy to get, does not cost too much and gives you a quick buzz. It is a quick fix for any social problems. You did not get the girl, have a drink and it will not matter anymore, or the drink will give you courage to ask another girl out. You don’t dance very well, have a drink and you will not care what you look like on the dance floor. Having a hard time with school or work, drink and forget. It is what some adults do, so it must be ok. Besides drinking is fun and sociable.
Once a teenager becomes an alcoholic things change. They tend to drink all the time, and as great as they think they are when they are drunk the truth is they are not that great to be around when every one else is sober. They start loosing their friends, and tend to drift to other teenagers using alcohol or drugs. Teenage drunks have the same problems as adult drunks. They drink lots, loose friends, drop grades, loose jobs and turn to alcohol or drugs to feel better. It just gets worse and worse until something changes, ether things get so bad someone steps in or they seek help themselves.
There is a lot of pressure on teenagers to drink. Being able to say, “No I cannot drink or do any drugs, my parents randomly test me for drugs and alcohol” takes all the pressure off any teenager. Some times that is all it takes, a parent taking the option away until they feel the teenager is able to make their own informed decisions and are able to deal with alcohol responsibly. Like when they reached the legal age to drink.