Despite the fact that there has been a long-term decline in the use of alcohol by teens and the current rates of use are at historic lows, underage drinking remains a leading public health problem in this country. (1) Alcohol remains the illicit drug of choice for youth. Studies indicate that the younger children and adolescents are when they begin to drink, the more likely they are to engage in behaviors that can be harmful to themselves and to others. (3) Being the child of an alcoholic places a person at greater risk for alcohol problems. Children of alcoholics are between 4 and 10 times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than are children who do not have the same genetic predisposition. (7)(9) In addition, family alcohol problems can affect the development of youth adversely, and family dysfunction can increase an adolescent's risk of problem alcohol use. The hallmarks of problem drinking are loss of control over drinking and the presence of negative consequences from drinking. (3) Adverse effects of underage drinking, including biological and developmental impact, are well documented. Alcohol acts primarily as a nervous system depressant and at high serum levels leads to respiratory depression. Families continue to exert significant influence on adolescents and on the behaviors in which teenagers choose to engage. Early identification of children, adolescents, and families with alcohol-related problems is critically important to the prevention of problem alcohol use among adolescents. Addressing alcohol use is an important part of the health-care visit for all children and youth.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health