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Alcohol is the Most Commonly Used Addictive Substance for Adolescents

July 25, 2017

Dozens of people, most of them in their late teens and early 20s, were hospitalized at a Friday night Chance the Rapper concert in Hartford, bringing increased attention to the issue of underage binge drinking.

Dr. Craig AllenMore than 90 people were sent for medical attention, including 30 to Hartford Hospital alone, during the concert at Xfinity Theatre. Police estimate that around 21,000 people attended the event, many of whom tailgated or “pre-gamed” before the concert in parking lots near the venue. Witnesses said many of those tailgating were underage drinkers that were passing out, vomiting and stumbling around the premises.

“People in this age group aren’t having a few drinks with friends; they’re much more likely to engage in binge drinking, which is consuming large amounts of alcohol in a  short period of time with the goal of becoming intoxicated,” said J. Craig Allen, MD, medical director at Rushford. “This is compounded by the fact that teens are inexperienced drinkers and are likely to consume more than their bodies can handle.”

While opioid abuse has gotten most of the headlines recently, alcohol abuse remains a major issue that tends to be overshadowed by the latest exotic drug that draws media attention.

Excessive drinking can impair judgment and coordination, which can lead to falls, burns or accidents, and can also cause people to become physically ill, pass out, or even die from excessive alcohol in their system, said Allen.

Excessive drinking can impair judgment and coordination, which can lead to falls, burns, motor vehicle accidents, as well as place people in dangerous situations where they could be vulnerable to sexual or physical assault. Alcohol suppresses the nervous system and can cause people to become confused, lose consciousness or even die from alcohol poisoning, said Allen.

In addition to the short-term risks, alcohol may cause health concerns down the road, particularly for adolescents.

“Teens are much less likely to experience alcohol dependence or withdrawals, but using any addictive substance before your brain is fully developed puts you at greater risk of developing other substance use disorders and can have a lifelong impact on academic, cognitive, emotional and psychological functioning,” Allen said.

Alcohol is by far the most commonly used addictive substance for adolescents, and parents need to take steps to help keep their teens safe, said Allen.

“Parents need to understand that this age group has access to alcohol, and by the time kids are seniors in high school, at least 75 percent will have experimented with alcohol,” Allen said. “Talk to your kids about it. Set clear expectations and guidelines. Have a way to monitor whether your kids are drinking or not, and don’t be afraid to follow through with enforcing rules.”

TheHartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network offers a wide range of services for adults and teens struggling with alcohol addiction, including inpatient and residential detox, intermediate residential treatment, outpatient treatment, and support groups.

For more information on the BHN’s alcohol services, visit here.