July 11 – Alcoholism Prevention Day
Alcoholism is always formed gradually, growing out of episodic use and developing into the systematic use of alcohol, abuse of alcohol, the adoption of alcoholic beverages by some reason, and subsequently without any reason, the formation of attraction and the search for reasons for taking alcohol.
Alcoholism is a slowly progressing disease characterized by a pathological craving for alcohol, the development of withdrawal syndrome (hangover effect) when using alcohol is stopped, and in advanced cases, persistent somatoneurological disorders and the gradual development of complete mental degradation of the personality, degeneration and destruction of organs and the body as a whole.
Alcoholism in adolescents develops faster than in adults, and the disease is more malignant. Those blood alcohol concentrations that cause only minor disturbances in adults can cause severe poisoning in young people with the occurrence of neurological disorders that do not disappear for months, years or for life.
Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is common among young people. Very often, the first test of alcohol by minors takes place under the supervision of parents at family holidays, where at least a drop of a stupefying drink is tried, and parents pour it to them. Often teens start drinking when they get into a new company, where it’s a kind of maturity test – «if you don’t want to drink, it means you won’t be with us». So they gradually get hooked; initially, older, already adult companions force them to drink, and then addiction to alcohol comes – they can’t do without it at cheerful meetings.
Youth people want to be like everyone else, therefore, in order not to be white crows, they drink. After some time, alcohol becomes a necessary part of relaxation, peace and a cheerful mood. Then the doses of consumed increase, because the initial volume of drunk seems insufficient. Thus, alcohol becomes an integral part of life and is involved in all the vital processes of the young body.
With regular intake of alcohol, performance drops sharply, the range of interests narrows, school performance decreases, because memory suffers, the character and the personality as a whole changes. Mortality from alcoholism among young people, both in men and in women, is highest compared to that in other age groups.
In adolescence, any alcohol, even in very small quantities, causes irreparable harm to the body. It acts most rudely on an unformed young organism, affecting the personality qualities of a teenager, mental and physical health, and leads to impaired reproductive function in adolescent girls. Alcohol is the most common cause of unwanted pregnancy in young girls, promiscuous sex, and the risk of spreading sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS is indirectly increased.
There is a correlation between the use of alcoholic beverages by students and the decrease in their academic performance. Alcohol using is one of the three other factors that negatively affect academic performance. The use of any quantities is the main social danger and the health hazard of minors.
Studies show that teens who drink alcohol most often experience:
- problems at school: low attendance and low or poor grades;
- violation of normal growth and sexual development;
- social problems, such as fights and non-participation in teenage activities;
- problems with the law, such as arrests for driving or causing physical harm to someone in a state of intoxication;
- physical problems, such as a hangover or feeling unwell;
- high risk of suicide and homicide..
Even moderate alcohol intake in adolescence is tantamount to alcohol abuse.
Even with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.5-0.6%, a teenager may die.
The youthful brain is very vulnerable because it is in a state of functional and structural change. Ethanol, which is present in alcoholic beverages, can cause enormous damage to the developing brain. It was experimentally proved that even not very frequent drinking can almost half the ability of the brain to learn something new. With the frequent use of alcohol, mental development stops, the formation of ethical and moral norms is disrupted, and already existing skills may worsen or disappear. In fact, when exposed to alcohol, the young brain becomes dull intellectually and morally, and alcohol addiction develops many times faster.
The unformed body of a teenager quickly gets used to large doses of alcohol. Therefore, there is a high risk that a teenager may become addicted to alcohol if he often drinks even low-alcohol drinks. The danger is further enhanced by a frivolous attitude to alcohol. Many teenagers believe that if you drink something alcohol a couple of times a week, then nothing will happen. But the risk exists, even if the minor drinks three to four times a month. Such a frequency of drinking is considered by narcologists to be a systematic use of alcohol.
Prevention of alcoholism among young people therefore requires special attention.
The basis of anti-alcohol propaganda among adolescents and their parents must be the principle of the inadmissibility of the use of alcohol by minors.
It is necessary to constantly carry out work on the formation of sober attitudes in minors. One of such methods for the formation of sober attitudes in children and adolescents is the anti-alcohol education system at school.
The basis of anti-alcohol education and enlightenment at school are the following principles:
- anti-alcohol enlightenment as an integral system of anti-alcohol education must be carried out throughout all the years of education and aimed at creating intolerance in the minds of children and adolescents to all manifestations of drunkenness and alcoholism;
- the program of anti-alcohol education is obliged to provide for a gradual, taking into account the age and psychological characteristics of students, disclosure of the negative effects of alcohol on human health and the life of society as a whole.
For example, developed on the basis of these principles «Guidelines. Anti-alcohol education at school» by E. Skvarcova provides:
- in the elementary grades, anti-alcohol conversations (for example, when completing the topic «Health Protection»), setting up experiments on the effect of alcohol on plants and animals (in nature studies);
- starting from the 5th grade, conversations and lectures can already be focused and conducted together with the doctor, and in higher grades – with police personnel, lawyers;
- in grades 8-10, the following anti-alcohol test subjects can be recommended: «Alcohol and health», «Alcohol and offspring», «Alcohol and sports are incompatible», «Damage causing by alcohol to society», «Alcohol and offenses», «On factors, contributing to drunkenness and alcoholism among adolescents and youths», etc.
In addition to specialized lectures and discussions, it is necessary to carry out systematic anti-alcohol education during subject training.
Anti-alcohol propaganda at schools should be carried out mainly by teachers with an invitation to read individual lectures by professionals (doctors, lawyers, sociologists, etc.); anti-alcohol education is obliged to extend to the parents of students.
Along with anti-alcohol education of students, rational educational work must be carried out with their parents. This work is obliged to have a differentiated nature (for parents of younger students, for parents of older students) and, as experience shows, to convey information to the target audience, it is better to use parental meetings.
No less urgent is the problem of anti-alcohol education of students in vocational schools, secondary specialized educational institutions, students, working youth of industrial and agricultural enterprises. The accumulated experience indicates that the anti-alcohol free position among this contingent of young people, as in any new social groups, must be complex and differentiated.
When planning and conducting activities for the primary prevention of drunkenness and alcoholism, it’s needable to constantly remember that adolescents are too observant, receptive, and prone to imitate. As a teenager forms, he copies the behavior of adults, sometimes unconsciously. The object of imitation more often as a whole is not declaratively-peremptory statements that «drunkenness is not prohibited», but a way of life, actions, adult behavior.
And if a teenager is told about the highest moral principles, the need to be honest and fair, lead a sober lifestyle, but in everyday life and in the relationships of adults around him he sees falsity, indifference, cruelty, a desire for money-grubbing and drunkenness, then more often (as a result) not words are taken «on faith», but the actions of people around the adolescent.
Valeologist of the 4th City Clinical Hospital named after M. Saŭčanka V. Čarnoŭ