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What about alcohol and youth?

Alcohol and drugs are more destructive when you are young. We are not just saying that because we are no longer young, but the research bears this out. There is a great deal of current interest and research on the plasticity of the youthful, “unfinished” brain, particularly the developing pathways and neurotransmitter settings. This might be thought of as getting an exquisite machine calibrated to the wrong baseline settings. Changing those neurochemical settings later is much more challenging, in addition to going through the developmental, learning, and social issues one may well have omitted if drug or alcohol seeking was the main activity.

Statistics show that the younger you are when using drugs and alcohol, the greater your chances of becoming addicted. So, if you begin to use alcohol regularly at age 13, there is a 43% chance you’ll become alcoholic. Compare that with starting regular use at age 21, with a 10% chance of becoming addicted. So it is over four times more likely you’ll become addicted if you start at the beginning of adolescence.

It is a normal developmental stage to feel self conscious, to have some concerns and fears about sexuality, about education and career, about being liked and accepted. Alcohol is very tempting, because it may TEMPORARILY smooth over these rough spots, making a teen feel more comfortable. So, the teen has a couple of drinks at a party, approaches that interesting person, starts to talk, dance, flirt, and is rewarded emotionally. Now a link may have been made that the teen believes s/he must have the substance to allow this to occur. That is an incorrect and dangerous thought. Part of treatment is learning to interact with others while sober, and learning how to connect on a genuine level. Much more rewarding, and you’ll remember what you said and did! Talk to your school counselor or your health care provider as a good first step.

Learn more by watching the flash videos WYNK offers. The longer program on alcohol has been test watched by a number of young adults as well as adults, and both groups found it engaging as well as educational.

by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.

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