Is the drinking age getting lower and lower? Teenage alcoholism

How young do kids start drinking?We’ve already mentioned that kids tend to get in quite a bit of trouble during their teen years (see here). Well, adolescence is also a time when the brain is developing and therefore is at a high risk for damage, especially when alcohol abuse enters the picture.

Early use means more alcoholism later

While the risk taking can be playful and harmless, when it involves alcohol and drugs the consequences of use at an early age can be long-lasting. The earlier a person begins drinking the higher the reported rates of alcoholism later in life. During this time, when an adolescent’s brain is changing, they are less likely to be able to inhibit themselves, let alone anticipate the future. Those with hyperactive, disruptive, antisocial personalities are at the greatest risk for alcohol abuse at early ages, putting their already somewhat compromised brains at an even greater risk.

Teens, like adults, report feeling more at ease when under the effects of alcohol, which makes it easy to understand why they would want to continue. Less like (some) adults, teens rarely consider the negative consequences of their actions, a fact that has at least a little to do with their still developing brain structures. But there are consequences to alcohol abuse and they can be dire – over 5000 kids die each year as a result of underage drinking.

Young bodies and early alcohol damage

Before these young adults are truly mature, their intake of alcohol may not be properly resolved by their bodies because their regulatory systems are not fully developed and can be further taxed by the intake of alcohol. Alcohol abuse in a young age can have a lasting effect on brain development resulting in impairments for many years to follow. Reproductive organs and other important maturation factors may also be stunted due to a consumption of alcohol during a vital time (especially when binge drinking). As with most people who drink, regardless of the age, liver enzymes are elevated soon after the heavy drinking begins, meaning the body is less able to ward off other toxins.

Parents and alcoholism

Children of parents who drink more and view drinking with a laid back opinion are more likely to drink more as well. This may not be a problem as long as responsible consumption is discussed, but my guess is that it rarely is. Also, kids who have older friends are more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age. Teens that have become addicted to alcohol need help specifically tailored to their age group that does not remove them from their normal home and school setting. It’s been shown that isolating these kids, or specifically grouping them together, may do more harm than good.

Often, adolescents with alcohol abuse problems are also using other drugs, and they may be suffering from other psychological disorders. All of the issues need to be treated at the same time in order to effectively treat the entire person. No matter what the issue(s), the sooner they are dealt with the more effective the results.

Teenage alcoholism is a problem, and one that we shouldn’t be ignoring.

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

Citations:

“Adolescent Brain Development, Decision making, and Alcohol Abuse and Dependence” NIAAA Research. November 2007.

“Why do Adolescents drink, What are the Risks, and How can Underage Drinking be prevented?” Alcohol Alert. January 2006, 67

Actor Chris Klein in rehab – Facing jail time after second DUI

Actor Chris Klein has checked himself into rehab following his second DUI arrest that occurred on June 16. A police officer pulled him over after he was spotted swerving across the westbound 101 Freeway in Los Angeles. His blood alcohol content was nearly three times the limit of .08.

Chris Klein was previously arrested on DUI charges in 2005 and his PR rep issued the following statement:

“After recent events, Chris was forced to take a clear look at a problem he has been trying to deal with himself for years. He understands now that he can not beat this disease alone. He thanks everyone for their support as he takes all the necessary steps to deal with his addiction and asks for privacy while doing so.”

Klein is receiving treatment at the Cirque Lodge in Utah. The Cirque Lodge may sound familiar to you as Mary Kate Olson, Eva Mendes, and yes, Lindsay Lohan have received treatment there as well. Klein is enrolled in a 30-day alcohol addiction program and plans to stay longer if needed.

The L.A. City Attorney’s office says Chris Klein faces four days in jail (a slap on the wrist?) if he is convicted of his second DUI offense. In accordance with a California law for repeat DUI offenders, Klein will also have to install an interlock device in his car if he wishes to drive again. This device will require him to perform a breathalyzer test in order to start the engine.

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

Lindsay Lohan not drinking – cleared of false SCRAM bracelet alert

Here’s a little follow-up to last month’s post about Lindsay Lohan:

Lindsay Lohan’s SCRAM bracelet went off at an after party for the MTV Movie Awards on June 6, leading authorities to believe she had violated her probation and consumed alcohol.

Lindsay was ordered to come in at 10AM the next morning for a urine test. The results came back clean. She is still in full compliance with her probation and she continues to take court-ordered alcohol education classes. Linday’s next court hearing is scheduled for July 6th. Hopefully she can stay out of trouble until then. Violating her probation could land her up to 6 months in jail.

Addiction and the media – a stigma made in heaven

The sad truth is media outlets jump at the chance to make celebrities look bad. Celebrity addiction is usually brought up when someone gets arrested, checks into rehab, or overdoses. As a result, many people find it hard to believe that celebrities can stay sober. In the case of Lindsay Lohan, all sorts of rumors are flying around that she tampered with her SCRAM bracelet or that she paid off the testing lab.

Celebrities don’t always mess up. We just don’t get to see it when they succeed. To paint a more balanced picture of celebrity addiction, we will be featuring posts about famous individuals who have been able to overcome their addiction to drugs. Look for these in the weeks to come!

Contributing co-author: Andrew Chen

About Addiction: Smoking, drinking and Heroin

Some great, informative articles about addiction, alcohol and smoking, as well as some about Heroin.  We also have some new sites with links listed here so give us your feedback on what you like!

Alcohol

Caron Chit Chat: According to a world renowned addiction treatment center, the female problem drinker in Dallas is most likely between the ages of 25-39, single, prefers wine and beer to hard liquor, drinks more with her girlfriends than on a date or with work colleagues and may not sleep well.

PhysOrg.com: Binge drinking can cause long lasting damage to an important area in the brains of adolescent monkeys, suggesting that binge drinking could have serious effects on memory formation in adolescents.

HealthDay: One in five college students admitted to drunk driving. Additionally, more than 40% of twenty year old adolescents rode in a car with an intoxicated driver.

Medical News Today: Young people in the two years after high school who are in romantic relationships are less likely than their peers to report heavy drinking and marijuana use. Marriage lowers the odds that people will get drunk frequently or smoke pot.

HealthDay: As teens become adults, their tendency toward impulsive behaviors decreases as well as the amount of alcohol they consume. Teenagers tend to mature as they get older as well as drink less alcohol.

SAMHSA: Around 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes on any average day. This data was conducted in a national survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Heroin

The Sydney Morning Herald: Heroin users regularly land in hospitals, and heroin use is often fatal. This study traced all hospital admissions of a group of heroin users over 10 years, to mid 2004.

REUTERS: According to the National Institute on  Drug Abuse, around 3.7 million people in the US have used heroin sometime in their lives. Prescription heroin may help addicts to stay off street drugs.

Smoking

PhysOrg.com: Increasing cigarette taxes could be an effective way to reduce smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or people with mental disorders. A ten percent increase in cigarette pricing resulted in an eighteen percent decline in smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or individuals with mental disorder.

REUTERS: Tobacco companies and retailers say in a lawsuit that anti-smoking signs in New York City showing a decaying tooth, diseased lungs and a damaged brain violate cigarette vendors’ free speech and should be removed.

Lohan at it again – gets new SCRAM bracelet

Lindsay LohanIt seems that Lindsay Lohan got  herself in some trouble again, this time because she failed to show up to a court hearing and was partying on a yacht in France instead. An irate judge wanted her arrested, but when her lawyer posted bail for her, she got to walk in to court herself and face her punishment.

Lindsay is going to have to wear a SCRAM bracelet that will monitor her drinking through her skin at all times during the day. The SCRAM bracelet provides Lohan’s supervisor with more than 48 daily alcohol tests to make sure that the actress can’t drink at all.

Everyone (almost) knows about Lohan’s repeat visits to different California addiction-treatment facilities (most recently Promises), and it’s important to note that this recent incident doesn’t necessarily mean that Lindsay is having serious drug, or alcohol, problems. All we know is that she has a hard time showing up to court on time and is paying the price.

I think it’s sad that we only get to hear from people like Lindsay when she gets herself in trouble and that we don’t get to hear about her successes, which, given the fact that she hasn’t been arrested since 2007, must exist. True, she’s seemed to have some trouble obeying court orders, but I’d be interested to know how her own personal battle with bad-decisions-brought-on-by-alcohol-and-drugs has been going…

Quitting smoking: Quitlines success

In the world of extremely difficult smoking-cessation (quitting smoking), telephone-based programs are apparently having some real success.

Quitting smoking with quitlines

According to a recent summary-analysis (we call these meta-analyses) of research done on Smoking Cessation Quitlines (CSQs), smokers who call and participate are 1.5 times more likely to quit! These are roughly the same numbers we see for people who use nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs, like the nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge), which are the most successful therapies we’ve got. Not bad when you consider that most quitlines are free to users.

What do quitlines do?

Once a user interested in quitting contacts a CSQ, they are taken through an assessment procedure. The California one is apparently pretty long, lasting 30-40 minutes. Don’t worry, the first call is the longest. Past this point, the lines’ activities vary greatly depending on the specific provider. Some offer phone-based counseling only, others also mail materials, and some offer recorded messages, on-demand counseling, counselor callback, and even access to medication (like patches, gum, or bupropion). Since state-based ones are free, it’s a good idea to make the call and see what your state offers. If you’re an addiction professional, or a psychologist with clients that want to quit smoking but can’t seem to shake it, this might be a great suggestion for them.

Can quitlines be used for other addictions?

Phone-based interventions have already been used for some addiction problems (mostly problem drinking), but usually as a supplement to face-to-face treatment. Still, given the relatively low cost associated, it seems that establishing such a tool for problem drinkers that doesn’t include a face-to-face interaction could be a viable option. Since it was state-based public health officials that made CSQs happen through lobbying, it seems that any addiction, or mental health, problem that is prevalent enough to warrant such attention (and such expenditures) may benefit from a little quitline love.

Citation:

Lichtenstein, E., Zhu, S.H., Tedeschi, G.J. (2010). Smoking cessation Quitlines: An underrecognized intervention success story. American Psychologist, 65, 252-261.

Ellen and Gladis – Alcoholic and funny

I don’t normally like to make fun of the disease of alcoholism, but sometimes, you just have to let go and enjoy the entertainment. Check out this video from the Ellen DeGeneress show, in which she talks to Gladis, an avid watcher who wrote in. Gladis (the funny alcoholic, I wasn’t saying anything about Ellen in the title) seems to have resigned herself to being an alcoholic and seems to have a lot to say about pretty much everything. Apparently, she’s made many more appearances on the show.