Adolescent Alcohol Use Linked to Suicidal Tendencies
Today’s adolescents undergo an unusually large amount of stress these days. With the pressure of being socially accepted, dealing with bullies and other hurtful people, or simply trying to complete high school, teenagers’ experience with stressful situations often times leads to harmful lifestyles. These hard times, if you will, can drive our teens to alcohol and other illegal substance abuse in attempt to cope with life’s difficult situations. Unfortunately, substance abuse, more times than not, leads to more harmful situations, such as driving under the influence, unprotected sex, sexual assault, harm to others, or even harm to themselves.
There have been numerous studies correlating alcohol and substance abuse rates among teenagers with emergency room visits, depression, and other developmental issues. However, there is little research to see if alcohol and substance abuse among teenagers is linked to an increased rate of suicide or suicide attempts. In a 2005 study, 13,000 plus students from across the country participated in a survey in an attempt to determine if alcohol and other illegal substance use contribute to an increase in suicidal tendencies. The results are astounding.
According to the survey conducted by researchers Swahn and Bossarte (2007), pre-teen drinkers (ages younger than 13) are more likely to report suicidal thoughts and attempts versus non-drinkers of the same age group and even more likely than teenagers (ages older than 13) who do drink. Pre-teen girls who drink alcohol have more suicidal thoughts than teenage girls who drink. Boys under the age of 13 who partake in alcohol before 13 years old reported having more suicidal thoughts and actually attempted suicide more than pre-teen boys that did not drink (Swahn & Bossarte, 2007).
Contributing Factors on Alcohol Use among Adolescents
This study along with every other study highlight the same message: Alcohol and substance abuse is a pandemic in our society, especially among our youth. There are many factors contributing to adolescent substance abuse. Parents that abuse alcohol or illegal drugs, peer pressure from other teens, and emotional distress are just a few of the factors. Advertisements and marketing campaigns for the alcohol and tobacco industries are a significant factor toward underage drinking. The industries reach more kids each day with ads in music videos, popular songs, social media, and television and radio commercials. These industries have mastered the art of appealing to today’s youth through signage, store displays, and product placement. It has proven so successful that in 2005 the alcohol industry alone spent $2 billion on various media campaigns. According to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, teenagers are exposed to over 23 different ads each month. Research shows that for every ad over 23, the likelihood of a teenager to drink alcohol increases by 1% (www.camy.org).
Alcohol poses a significant threat to our children today. Overexposure to alcohol and illegal substances, whether it is from other teens or from media campaigns, increases the likelihood that our children will experiment with substance abuse. Teens who drink are more at risk for living a harmful lifestyle and put themselves and others in danger. As parents, we must remain vigilant and stay involved in our children’s lives. Open communication with your teen can make the difference between life and death. Have the conversation. Speak out to your children and others about the dangers of alcohol use. For more information on our prevention efforts contact Eagle Ridge Institute today at 405-840-1359.