Driving a vehicle while intoxicated with alcohol is one of the most treacherous things a person could ever attempt. This is mainly because a drunk driver is not only a danger to himself/herself but also to other road users and pedestrians. Unfortunately, alcohol is the most widely abused drug among the youth. When adolescents begin drinking they face a number of potential risks. Alcohol as a depressant slows down the reactions of the body and working of the brain. Some of the risks involved with drinking include violence and alcohol related accidents. There are also legal consequences to drunk driving such as going to jail, press coverage, paying heavy fines, court appearances or even losing one’s driving license. In addition, the more a person imbibes alcohol; their ability to make decisions becomes impaired.
There are also health risks that can surface due to drinking alcohol. These may include health effects such as Effects to the liver. Some adolescents who drink alcohol have been found with elevated liver enzymes, which indicate a level of liver damage. Overweight and obese people are at a higher risk of liver damage even with only moderate drinking.
Growth and Endocrine Effects: When an adolescent drinks alcohol when he is in a stage of rapid growth and development, the hormonal balance critical for development of organs, bones and muscles may be negatively affected
According to survey carried out in 2009, about over half of American youths between the ages of 12 and 20 claimed that they regularly consumed alcohol (Wagner & Waldron, 2001, p10). Many young people are facing the repercussions of alcohol abuse at a relatively early age. There are injury and social consequences that are associated with underage drinking.
Conditions such as depression and stress combined with alcohol abuse have been known to cause death among people through suicides. This mostly occurs in ages between fourteen and twenty five years. A study showed that 37% of eighth-grade females who drank regularly tried attempting suicide compared with the percentage of girls that did not drink.
Another social consequence related to underage drinking is sexual assault that may include rape. This commonly happens to young women while out on a date. Research shows that alcohol use by the offender and or the victim increases the chance of sexual assault. Apart from sexual assault, there is also a chance of engaging in high-risk sexual activities. These high-risk sexual activities such as, multiple partners, can be caused and affected by the intake of alcohol one takes. This activity has some negative results such as contracting diseases and unwanted pregnancies (Scott, 2006).
Another key problem with underage drinking is that a teenage brain is not fully developed in terms of the judgment. Because of this, adolescents are well known for making faulty decisions and choosing to do the wrong thing. Teenage drivers can be easily influenced by their peers as well as stresses and other distractions. This is most likely to result in reckless behaviors while driving such as driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, failure to wear their safety belts and speeding. A leading cause of deaths for teenagers and the young adults can be traced back to traffic crashes, which are in turn induced by drunkenness while driving. It is known that there is no save amount of alcohol that one can drink and still drive. Therefore, it is understood that underage drinking is a serious public health problem among today’s youth and a way out of it has to be found.
2.0 Factors contributing to underage drinking
As a person transitions from one development stage to another, he/she encounters physical, lifestyle and even emotional changes. Developments stages such as adolescence bring about an increase in independence that has been associated with use and abuse of alcohol.
The act of developing is in itself a factor to start drinking alcohol. However, apart from that other identified factors that contribute to underage drinking. These factors are categorized into social, genetic and environmental factors.
2.1 Social factors
Peer pressure is one social factor that plays a significant role in influencing the underage to start drinking. Expecting pleasurable experiences about alcohol can contribute to underage drinking; the teenagers may have the view that drinking alcohol is pleasurable and the effects of drinking alcohol are arousing and positive. Social acceptability is another factor that leads to underage drinking. This is where the teenager begins and continues drinking because alcohol is well accepted and popular in the society and the positive beliefs and attitudes of the society towards alcohol further encourages the individual to drink.
2.2 Genetic factors
Some behavioral and physiological elements that come together to decrease or increase an individual’s risk of alcohol problems may be directly linked to genetics. A child who has an alcoholic as a parent or has several members of his/her family who are alcoholics, then the child has a higher risk of having alcohol problems. In the genetic makeup of individuals and families with alcohol dependence, there are chromosomes that relate with alcoholism risk. Certain behavioral traits such as, antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder, poor impulse control and sensation-seeking disorder have been associated with differences in people’s brain and studies show that some individuals may be more inclined to take alcohol (Scott, 2006).
2.3 Environmental factors
Influence of parents and peers contribute largely to alcohol use. A teenager may be more susceptible to engage in alcohol use if he has a parent or parents who regularly drink and view alcohol in a favorable manner. Parenting plays an extremely influential role in shaping the future of an adolescent. For instance, factors such as discipline methods, communication methods, relationships between the child and parents may determine if the adolescent takes alcohol or not. It is also common for a person to use alcohol if he has a close relationship with a friend like a girl friend who regularly drinks alcohol. Evidence has suggested that an adolescent drinking behavior is directly determined by whether his peers take alcohol or not.
The media are also another environmental factor that has a significant effect the young adults and may directly or indirectly make them to start and continue drinking alcohol. The media promotes alcohol through the television, internet, radio, posters and billboards (Scott, 2006). The alcohol advertisements portray alcohol as desirable and this would make the teenagers view drinking positively and will want to purchase the alcoholic products. Other environmental factors that could contribute to underage drinking are; lack of proper monitoring, easier access to alcohol in the home and acceptance of drinking in the family.
3.0 Hypothesis statement
Hypothesis is essentially a researcher’s proposed explanation for an observable phenomenon. For this case, there is a strong positive correlation between alcohol abuse among the youth and increased traffic crashes.
4.0 Method of Research
There are various methods of research, which may be employed by a researcher. However, the selection of the appropriate technique is dependent on several factors such as period within which the report has to be completed, resources available towards the project, location and participation of the interviewees. The research methods are divided into qualitative, quantitative and participatory methods.
The participatory method will mainly involve focus groups, participatory workshops or individual diaries. This method seeks to investigate, give voice to groups of people that are marginalized and vulnerable in development as well as decision-making.
In qualitative methods, their aim is not primarily at exact measurement of predetermined hypotheses but a more inclusive and holistic understanding of realities and processes. They are long method of research that combines various sampling techniques.
In this case, the most suitable approach would be quantitative research. This approach seeks to establish the truthfulness or falsehood of particular predetermined hypotheses through a rigorous objective. This type of research is carried out by skilled research designers and analysts with the assistance of teams of local enumerators. It will focus on the actual number of young adults who are abusing alcohol and to what extent they succumb to the repercussions of the same. The main tools employed are large-scale surveys that are analyzed using statistical techniques. This method uses questionnaires, which contain relevant predetermined hypotheses as identified in the earlier statistical analysis. These questionnaires will be subjected to the young adults randomly or stratified random sample of individuals mostly narrowing down on the control group. Casualty is assessed through checking the real number of adolescents who are abusing alcohol and getting involved in traffic crashes as compared to the perceived number and the degree to which they co-occur (Wagner et al, 1999).
The research indicates clearly that most young adults who partake of alcohol and drive vehicles have a higher prevalence of being involved in traffic crashes. Drinking continues to be highly prevalent in the adolescents. When the adolescents drink, they tend to drink intensively and take even five glasses at a time.
It can be deduced from the research that adolescents start drinking at remarkably tender ages. The average age of first alcohol use was found to be 13 years. This research also shows that serious drinking problems that are commonly associated with the middle aged begin much earlier during adolescent stage or during young adulthood.
6.0 Possible solutions to the problem
Continued abuse of alcohol is because of genetic, environmental and behavioral factors. For instance, biological and psychological changes that take place during adolescent may cause risky taking behavior such as experimenting with alcohol. This could in turn determine whether one drinks or not and the sort of friends whom they chose in their future. There are various ways of dealing with the issue of underage drinking.
One of them entails seeking medical attention by the adolescents who are already dependent on alcohol. They may however feel comfortable seeking these services if their specific needs of adolescent are addressed. For instance, most adolescents prefer easy access to treatment that is geared towards them. The treatments should not alienate them from the comfort of their home or academic environment (Scott, 2006).
Increase the minimum drinking age: As it stands now, most youth is allowed to start purchasing alcohol at the age of 21 years. Increasing the legal age limit of purchasing alcohol has been the most efficient method of controlling alcohol related traffic crashes.
Increasing the price of alcohol-, Higher prices and taxes on alcoholic drinks have been known to lower alcohol consumption among the youth and alcohol-related problems.
Family–Based Initiatives: Parents have a role to play in the shaping of the future of their children. They should not be seen to be glorifying alcohol use at least at the presence of their underage children. Parents should set rules against drinking, enforce the rules and consistently monitor their children’s behavior.
School-Based Initiatives: These initiatives follow social influence models, which entail addressing social pressures to drink, teaching resistance skills and setting norms. In their precise nature, they should be an interactive forum where appropriate information is impacted including peer led components and teacher training (Wagner et al 1999).
Zero- Tolerance Laws: These laws should be enacted in all states in order to make it impossible for people under the age of 21 to drive after any drinking.
Enforcement of laws: Resources should be made available for enforcing the laws against the purchase of alcohol by underage. It should also target the sellers of alcohol.
7.0 Ethical issues
Ethical issues revolve around ensuring the quality of the research work is not compromised in any way. The confidentiality of the interviewees should be upheld in the best possible way. The researcher has a duty to keep the person funding the research unknown to anybody. This is the case where competitors may gain undue advantage over a competing firm, which is paying for the research project.
Also worth noting is the principle of voluntary participation in which the interviewees should not be coerced or bribed into giving information. With this regard, the researcher should not be seen to be asking somewhat leading questions because this may skew the results towards what the researcher already wants to achieve (Wagner et al 1999).
The researcher should stick to professionalism and give a true report and representation of the research regardless of the implications of the research. For instance, if the research indicates a positive correlation between alcohol advertisements and its abuse the researcher should not be compromised by the alcohol multinationals to say otherwise. The information given should be accurate, precise and relevant.
The interviews should be done when the participants are informed about the risks and procedures that will be involved in the research and give their consent to participate in the interview process. The safety and health of the participants should not be endangered in any way. This involves the people who are collecting data in the fields whom their safety should be ascertained.
Another ethical issue to be considered is the person’s right to service. The participants should be made more involved in the project by giving them access to the full report after the research is concluded. In case they have any questions and reservations, they should be handled accordingly.
8. 0 Conclusion
Alcohol has been aggressively and widely marketed throughout the society. However, the numerous number of employment opportunities the alcohol industry generates, the subsequent losses associated with it should never be overlooked. Some people may feel justified by taking alcohol but this need to be done in consideration of the society in general. The revelation by many researchers that alcohol and substance abuse by adolescent is directly correlated with an increase in road accidents should be given first priority. Many families are unknowingly endorsing the use of alcohol to their underage children by their public use of alcohol.
Having found out that alcohol is well acceptable; the youth are taking it without proper information as to its repercussions. For instance, this has propelled the number of traffic crashes, which are because of alcohol abuse. Adolescents who start and continue drinking alcohol are at a higher risk of developing severe alcoholic problems and other adverse alcohol consequences later on in their life. These adolescents should be identified so that they can be helped to eradicate problems before they develop. It is in the interest of the society that concerted efforts should be made towards finding the most suitable solution to curb this menace.
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