Literature and History
Alcoholism is a disease characterized by factors such as a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite past harm, the inability to limit drinking, withdrawal symptoms when drinking stops, and the need to increase the amount consumed to feel the effects (CDC, Frequently Asked Questions). It is estimated that over 76 million people worldwide suffer from an alcohol consumption problem (greenfacts.org).
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) conducted a study in 2005 which showed that alcohol abuse can start as early as 8th grade. The NIAAA study showed that 11 percent of 8th graders engaged in binge drinking. By the time the student reaches 12th grade, the study shows that 29 percent of peers will also be binge drinking. The same report also showed that 19.5 percent of 8th graders had been drunk at least once in their lives. By 2007 those numbers were up; 16 percent of 8th graders and 44 percent of 12th graders reported drinking (CDC, Quick Stats).
An article by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) states “the earlier young people start drinking and using drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted . . . . [and] alcoholism is hereditary.” Studies have also shown that young adolescents who drink are more likely to develop substance abuse problems. Age is a factor in future problems with alcohol and drugs (SAMHSA). One study found that young adolescents were 47 percent more likely to develop alcoholism, and nearly half of the participants who developed alcohol dependence began drinking by the age of 16 or younger (NIH). Other studies have found that ten percent of boy aged 9 and 10 have already started drinking alcohol, and nearly one-third of underage drinkers started drinking before they were 13 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2006).
An important issue in adolescent alcoholism is the reason the adolescent starts to drink in the first place. The NIAAA lists risk-taking, expectancies, sensitivity and tolerance, personality and psychiatric comorbidity, heredity, and environmental aspects as reasons adolescents drink. The adolescent years are seen as a time to experiment and take risks as they become an adult. Perhaps young adolescents try alcohol because their peers are drinking and they are expected to drink—to fit in (NIAAA; Addictioninfo.org).
Alcohol companies also promote their beverages in a fashionable light. The actors are always fit and well-liked. Young adolescents desire to fit in and their perceptions of alcohol make them more likely to drink to be cool (NIAAA). Differences in the brains of adults and adolescents may also account for the young adolescents’ tolerance to alcohol. “This unusual tolerance may help to explain the high rates of binge drinking among young adults. At the same time, adolescents appear to be particularly sensitive to the positive effects . . . [therefore] young people may drink more than adults because of these...