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Alcohol consumption is one of the problems which exists in the modern society. It seems usual to meet a company of drinking youths who have chosen this option as a way for entertainment. The harmful effect of alcohol has already been discussed for many times. People are aware of hepatocirrhosis and other consequences of alcohol consumption. It is important to remember that alcohol consumption is regulated by different policies in the countries, but it does not mean that all people are law-abiding.
The problem of consumption of alcohol by adolescents is not limited to medical problems related to different types of body injures. Psychological issues are also important and may carry more harm for developing and growing organisms. Therefore, the main purpose of the discussion is the consideration of the developmental problems raised by the alcohol consumption during young age and the factors which influence adolescents’ choice in favor of drinking as the central psychological issue for youth growing up and becoming personalities.
Supportive environment in the relation to drinking
There are a lot of different factors which influence adolescents’ choice in favor of drinking. Multimedia is the main source of information. Watching TV, listening to the music, reading newspapers, or searching information online people meet different types of advertising which try to convince them to buy a specific brand of alcohol.
Using different marketing practices, the alcohol producers try to make advertising and branding the central promotional means of the delivering their products in the society. The rate of alcohol consumption by adolescents is dependent on the advertising and other marketing practices (McCreanor, Greenaway, Barnes, Borell, & Gregory, 2005).
Many advertising campaigns use alcohol as a part of youth culture. Watching the same ad very day, people are influenced and want to taste it. Youths are aware of the alcohol harmful effect, but at the same time, they also see a company of people who consume this product and remain successful healthy, etc. Following an ad, many adolescents just try to find their place in the world.
Even though some policies prohibit selling alcohol to people under some specific age, the understanding of alcohol as a part of adult culture remains. Becoming older people will consume this product as even if they had not tried it when they were too young, they are sure to consume it in elder age (McCreanor, Greenaway, Barnes, Borell, & Gregory, 2005). Isn’t it the main purpose of advertising and promotion strategies: to recruit youth in the future rank of consumers?
Drinking in movies is one more factor that influences adolescents’ understanding and perception of drinking as the part of youths’ culture. There are a lot of movies where advertising of alcohol brands is involved. Such advertising is indirect and has wider audience as advertising of alcohol on TV is forbidden in some countries up to specific time when most youths are already sleeping.
It is really exciting that “the extent to which alcohol represented in movies with a PG-13 rating was often indistinguishable from R rated movies” (Alcohol advertising, movies and adolescents, 208, p. 1936) that led to the alcohol consumption as a normal standard issue.
Much research is conducted in the sphere of the environmental influence of adolescents’ alcohol consumption.
Considering the results of the research conducted by Dal Cin et al (2009), the scholars received the following results, “alcohol prototypes, expectancies, willingness, and friends’ use of alcohol (but not perceived as prevalence of alcohol use among peers) were significant mediators of the relation between movie alcohol and exposure and alcohol consumption, even after controlling for demographic, child, and family factors associated with both movie exposure and alcohol consumption” (Dal Cin et al, 2009, p. 473).
This research is really important in understanding the factors which influence adolescents’ alcohol consumption, as it shows that watching movies and being influenced by stereotypes and friends many youths drink alcohol as a part of their social culture.
Alcohol and adolescents’ brain
Alcohol influences the health of all people who consume it. But, the influence of alcohol on adolescents is more powerful as people in this age still continue develop and grow up. It is not a secret that many people have the first try of alcohol in their young adulthood. This period is often called developmental and the consumption of alcohol during this period may have harmful consequences on brain function and structure.
The research conducted by Tapert, Calwell, and Burke (2004) has shown that “heavy drinking during adolescence and young adulthood is associated with poorer neurocognitive functioning during the young adult years, and particularly with impairment of attention and visuospatial skills” (Tapert, Calwell, & Burke, 2004, p. 211).
Considering the influence of alcohol consumption during adolescence on neuropsychological performance, it should be mentioned that such processes are considered as memory, executive functioning which includes planning, goal-directed behavior and abstract reasoning, visual skills, attention, etc. The research shows that those who consumed alcohol in their young adulthood could not use their neuropsychological skills in a proper way.
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Some participants of the experiment who have grown older have poor memory, others are unable to abstract reasoning in effective way, etc. It is crucial that it is possible to live with such changes in neuropsychological performance, still, such problems create numerous concerns to the whole public health sector (Tapert, Calwell, & Burke, 2004). Moreover, keeping in mind these processes in organism and the declining natural environment, it is impossible to predict what exactly may be influenced further.
Alcohol consumption in adolescent age leads to the change of brain structure in general. The research was conducted in two groups, the one with alcohol use disorders in youth and another on where people did not suffer from this disorder in the developmental age. The results showed the difference in the volume of hippocampi.
Hippocamp is a part of human brain which is mostly for responsible for emotions and memory, and also covers some other processes which are important for proper functioning of human organism. The longer people consumed alcohol in adolescence, the smaller hippocampi they had. Being crucial to learning and memory function, the smaller volume of hippocampi, the worse abilities of the brain are seen, and the lower level of knowledge these people may get in the future (Tapert, Calwell, & Burke, 2004).
Alcohol use disorders in the developmental period has specific effect on physiologic brain functioning. One of the brightest examples of physiologic brain performance is brain response to the stimuli or another unexpected event. The results of the research represent the lower reaction to the stimuli or event in the group where people consumed much alcohol in the developmental age than those did not.
The research conductors point to the fact that different people have absolutely various reaction and sensitivity to alcohol (Tapert, Calwell, & Burke, 2004). Still, no matter whether a person is highly influenced by alcohol consumption or not, the effect of alcohol on human brain is proved especially if drinking takes place in young adulthood, a so-called developmental age.
Much attention is paid to the harmful effect of alcohol on human body, but it is also important to remember that adults may face more serious problems if they used to heavy drinking while adolescence. The first try of alcohol and further alcohol consumption in young age are the reasons of worse learning skills in the future. There are other effects of alcohol consumption in the adolescence which may be identified in the adult life.
Methods for controlling youth alcohol consumption
Having considered the influence of drinking while developmental age, it is important to realize the effect of this influence and make some specific actions to prevent drinking in adolescent age. Almost each country has a number of polices which prohibit youth from drinking alcohol. Most of such polices state a specific age up to which youth is unable to buy different kinds of alcohol and freely consume it.
The research conducted by Paschall, Grube, and Kypri (2009) about the relation of drinking policies to the level of youths alcohol consumption in such countries as the USA, Spain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia has shown that the countries where drinking policies are comprehensive and restrict alcohol availability and marketing show lower rate of adolescents who consume alcohol.
The age when youths try alcohol for the first time is higher in such countries. Policies are created to restrict alcohol consumption by youth as the government understands how much the influence of early beginning of drinking influences may be harmful.
More severe policies and control over youths’ alcohol consumption in middle and high school should be one of the variants for reducing the effects of the problem.
Policies should be created and someone should control their following. It should be mentioned that the research conducted in some countries devoted to the drinking policies disclosed some specific facts. One of the main problems which exists in the world is that the policies are directed a different issues connected to drinking, like the selling of alcohol to people under some age or drunken drinking.
There are too few policies related to the prohibition of alcohol consumption up to some specific age (e.g. 21). Therefore, this issue should be the priority for many countries and without regulating the alcohol consumption in the developmental age, these countries risk to grow up a generation with numerous psychological problems and disabilities.
In conclusion it should be stated that alcohol consumption in adolescence influences human development and provide harmful effect on the organism. The effect of alcohol consumption in young adulthood age is reflected in the older age when brain processes do not work in a proper way.
The literature review we have conducted shows that consuming alcohol in developmental age youths risk to have worse memory, reduce their ability of abstract reasoning and lower the effect from other mental and psychological processes which occur in human brain. Such harmful impact occurs because drinking alcohol in developmental age people provide opportunities for the change of brain structure and other neuropsychological performances which cannot be stopped or renewed.
Alcohol advertising, movies and adolescents. (2008). Addiction, 103(12), 1935-1936.
Dal Cin, S., Worth, K.A., Gerrard, M., Gibbons, F. X., Stoolmiller, M., Wills, T. A. & Sargent, J. D. (2009). Watching and drinking: Expectancies, prototypes, and friends’ alcohol use mediate the effect of exposure to alcohol use in movies on adolescent drinking. Health Psychology, 28(4), 473-483.
McCreanor, T., Greenaway, A., Barnes, M.H., Borell, S. & Gregory, A. (2005). Youth identity formation and contemporary alcohol marketing. Critical Public Health, 15(3), 251-262.
Paschall, M.J., Grube, J.W. & Kypri, K. (2009). Alcohol control policies and alcohol consumption by youth: a multi-national study. Addiction, 104(11), 1849-1855.
Tapert, S.E., Calwell, L. & Burke, C. (2004). Alcohol and the adolescent brain: Human studies. Alcohol Research & Health, 28(4), 205-212.