Alcohol Abuse Amongst Teenagers, And The Need For Government Intervention To Address The Issue

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Drinking seems cool, and by doing so we fit in and are accepted by our peers., but did you also know that alcohol causes irreparable damage to our bodies? Finding the “cure” for the damage obtained seems to be the next step in the chain of events. And it seems that only now, when the number of the diseases caused by substance abuse has reached its peak, people have finally understood that the best “cure” is prevention, especially in the case of teenagers where drinking has been directly linked to brain tissue damage. Alcohol is seen as an acceptable social practice and a way of relaxing in our stressful modern day lives. With the advertising of alcohol so predominant in sporting and other social events, it enforces it in our minds making us see alcohol as a natural part of life. Whilst the economic costs of dealing with intoxication is on the rise, as our hospitals and protection services are inundated with such cases. We need to understand that alcohol abuse does not only affect those who drink, however it affects all of us and we need to pressure our government to act swiftly to address the issue.

The irreversible affects caused by alcohol last a lifetime and therefore can completely change the life of a person and those who will take care of them. Neuroscientist Dr Tapert compared the brain scans of teens who drink with those who do not. Tapert’s team found that those teenagers who consumed several alcoholic drinks a week had visible damage in their brain tissue after only one year of consumption, causing restricted concentration levels and the inability to comprehend and interpret visual information. Dr Tapert added ‘the adolescent brain is still undergoing several maturational processes that render it more vulnerable to the effects of substances”. Therefore I pose the question, why is the legal drinking age 18 years of age in Australia? Why is our government not moving to protect our future generation from these life altering risks?

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Alcohol is the most commonly used and most damaging drug amongst young people. Research conducted by Dr Michael Livingston concluded that 18 to 24 year olds consumed by far more alcohol than any other age group. ”The National Australian Drug Strategy’ survey found that 33.2% of teenagers between the ages of 15-17 had tried alcohol, whilst 32.7% in the age group of 18-24 were consuming more than 5 drinks a week. With the main reason for drinking being that alcohol allows them to have a good time, and makes them feel positive about themselves, mind you this is only short lived. However as their bodies struggle to cope with the alcohol, they lose control of their bodily functions and stumble around streets throwing up on every corner. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing grown up about a teenager throwing up in front of your door. With more than 33% of our teenagers experimenting with alcohol before they are of the legal drinking age, are we raising Australia’s next generation to be a group of drunks?

Advertising campaigns promoting alcohol are in full swing, with few legislative boundaries. Teenagers seen holding a bottle of VB is viewed as acceptable social behavior. Events like schoolies week reinforce to school leavers that drinking guarantees them a good time, therefore promoting alcohol consumption. Sporting victories are often celebrated with the consumption of alcohol. When Australia won the cricket world cup, Shane Warne asked his teammates “Are you thirsty?” promoting the idea that a sporting victory cannot be celebrated without alcohol. The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol co-chair, Mr. Michael Moore is calling for the government to address the loophole that allows alcohol advertising to be shown during televised sport. “Alcohol sponsorships of sport, music and cultural events should also be phased out”, Moore stated. Polling of Australians found 60% support removing alcohol sponsorship in sport. Our nation’s youth are exposed to such predominant alcohol advertising campaigns with few legislative codes that are simply not effective. The government is therefore urged to intervene to protect young Australians from the aggressive alcohol marketing that currently exists. 

The economic strain to our community in providing medical and protective services to intoxicated cases is also on a steady rise, with Victorian hospitals reporting more than a third of all patients admitted are alcohol related. Our protection officers are struggling to meet the rising number of alcohol related call outs, with up to 90 per cent of police attendance at night related to intoxication. The cost to our community for providing these services is estimated at $800 million each year and requiring on average 14 ambulances a day. Dr John Herron former Liberal Party senator says, “these alarming statistics show that more work needs to be done to tackle the problem, as alcohol related damage occurring in our communities is simply appalling.’ Our nation is at breaking point, governments need to take action and review the alcohol legislation. If we are to combat alcoholism and save lives, we need to act now!

Alcohol abuse is steadily becoming our nation’s number one killer. Pressuring governments to amend the alcohol legislation and advertising codes for the industry, is a starting point. However a lot of work is needed, if we are serious about replacing the VB bottle with a more sensible beverage choice, in the hands of our youth.


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