Published in El Pais, 22 January 2022.
Yesterday I attended a presentation on the prevention of alcohol and tobacco use in adolescents by researchers from IRIS Zorg, based on the results of a study in the Netherlands. Most of the participants were parents. Some interesting data were presented that I want to summarize in this note.
- The use of alcohol in those under 19 years of age. Brain development is intense during adolescence, and alcohol use causes problems with concentration, memory, and intelligence. This could affect education, but also stimulate their irrational decisions (where feelings prevail over reason), which are already present at this age. This exposes the adolescent to risky situations such as fights, sexual relations (without protection), or traffic accidents. In Bolivia, the two main causes of death in adolescents are due to interpersonal violence and traffic accidents in males; suicides and traffic accidents in women. In addition, after alcohol consumption, there are episodes of high depression.
- What to do to postpone its use? Addiction is more likely when it starts at a young age. For example, five cigarettes in short time are enough to have nicotine addiction. Therefore, the researchers suggest delaying the start to more than 19 years so that, after adolescence, better decisions can be made. To postpone its use, it is necessary to talk about the importance of not using substances before the age of 19, preparing them to “say no”. It is good for parents to set clear rules and sanctions in consensus with the adolescent and control their compliance. The fact that parents drink and smoke does not prevent them from advising them. Phrases like “don’t drink, don’t fall into the same trap as me” help start a conversation.
- How to improve your usage education? Many parents asked if it was better to teach the teenager to drink and smoke at home so that they can control themselves when they go to parties. The answer was no. Parents are usually the role model for good behavior and sharing a substance with them removes that barrier by making it easier to use. And the younger they start, the higher doses they will require later. Likewise, it was indicated that the use of “children champagne or non-alcoholic beer, or fake cigarettes” are a first step to the habit of taste and handling.
Hopefully these tips serve the education and preparation for our teens.