Warning on teenage boozing

2013-06-10 00:00

UNDERAGE drinking is a problem that just won’t go away.

A recent study by the South African Medical Research Council shows that there are high instances of underage drinking among the 13 to 15 age group.

Life Talk director Sally Thorp told The Witness: “Underage drinking is a national problem, and KwaZulu-Natal is no exception.” Life Talk is a non-profit organisation that focuses on challenges facing the youth.

Adrian Botha, director of the industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), is concerned about these findings.

“Underage drinking is a serious problem. Drinking has major social issues for our youth and both parents and teachers should offer real solutions to help reduce these problems.”

Children who start drinking young are likely to move on to stronger substances to get a better buzz.

Monty Reddy, the initiator of the Panorama Recovery centre in PMB, warns that alcohol is the start of worse addictions: “Alcohol is a gateway, but soon it is no longer enough. Children move on to stronger substances and it is becoming a real problem.”

According to the South Africans against Drunk Driving (SADD) website, a person is 40% more likely to become an alcoholic if they start drinking before the age of 15.

Botha said: “Increasing the legal drinking age to 21 will not alleviate the problem as the real issue seems to lie with teenagers that are up to five years younger than 18, the current legal drinking age. Therefore, we should rather invest in measures and interventions that target the younger age group as this may be a first step towards curbing the problem.”

It is up to parents to educate themselves and their children on the negative effects of underage and binge drinking.

“The message parents need to get across to their children is that the effects of alcohol on developing bodies and minds can lead to a number of problems in later life,” explains Botha. Alcohol can alter and damage the structure and function of the developing brain, said Botha, even modest use during adolescence.

Why do teens drink? What to do if you suspect your teen is drinking alcohol

THE ARA and Life Talk have some tips on why teenagers drink alcohol and what to do when parents discover their child has been drinking.

Common reasons why teenagers drink alcohol:

• boredom and peer pressure

• rebellion

• they think “everybody is doing it”

• it brings them instant gratification

• lack of confidence

• parental influences.

SALLY Thorp, director of the Life Talk Forum, gives the following advice to parents who suspect that their child may be binge drinking.

“Constructive confrontation and engagement is key to creating an environment conducive to addressing negative behaviour and considering alternatives. However, if despite your best efforts the undesirable behaviour persists, seek professional intervention.”

10 steps to consider:

1. Your own attitude towards alcohol.

2. Stay calm!

3. Deal with the facts as they appear to you.

4. Avoid judging, blaming and shouting — this will only escalate the situation.

5. Allow enough time for the conversation without interruptions.

6. Listen, listen, listen – encourage two-way communication and allow each person a chance to speak.

7. Underpin the conversation with love and concern for your teen by communicating firmly but gently.

8. Discuss the numerous consequences of binge drinking i.e. physically, mentally, emotionally, poor decision making that could result in rape, unwanted pregnancy, fatality etc.

9. Discuss boundaries and rules and then agree consequences.

10. Know where your teen is, who his/ her friends are and who he/she is with.

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