Children, adolescents, and alcohol

Children, adolescents, and alcohol

As part of our previously mentioned survey and continuous work with “kids” (meaning children and adolescents aged 7-23 with whom we work) during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, we had the opportunity to map how the behavior of young people in relation to alcohol has changed. In general, it was found that a certain group of young people reduced their alcohol consumption during the lockdown period due to the absence of social opportunities associated with drinking. On the other hand, the group of young people who were already accustomed to drinking alcohol outside of these occasions, for whom alcohol consumption was no longer just an experiment, often drank more than before the pandemic.

As we mentioned earlier, the summer period is a crisis period in terms of alcohol consumption among young people. Our field workers often deal with situations related to alcohol abuse or overdose in young people they encounter on the streets or in public spaces. Based on years of experience, we can summarize our observations as follows:

  1. Boys tend to consume alcohol more frequently, while girls often try to match boys in binge drinking in groups, which puts them in high-risk situations such as alcohol poisoning, injury, drowning, etc. This is often related to their smaller body size and lower weight.
  2. The summer phenomenon is experimenting with combining alcohol with drugs or “braking” or “diluting” alcohol with energy drinks. These combinations often cause unpredictable reactions in the body that can be health or even life-threatening and often end up with calling emergency medical help with subsequent hospitalization.
  3. Young people obtain alcohol by purchasing it from selected small vendors or by using the help of homeless people, whom they contribute to for alcohol in exchange for the service of buying alcohol.

In our practice, our assumptions have been confirmed that with the easing of pandemic restrictions, this summer will be more risky in terms of young people’s alcohol use than in previous years. It is as if they are intensively catching up on missed “social events” associated with alcohol consumption. Therefore, they currently use every possible excuse for intensive group alcohol consumption with the aim of getting drunk – the end of the school year, birthdays, name days, successful commissioning exams, or, conversely, unsuccessful commissioning exams, and so on. Often, young people do not even enjoy the taste of alcohol, but they want to quickly achieve a state of intoxication. This does not always work for them because rapid drinking quickly puts them into a phase of feeling nauseous and uncomfortable. However, this experience does not always discourage them from similar behavior in the near future.

How do we work with young people under the influence? We are generally very pragmatic – we minimize the risks in which they may find themselves due to alcohol abuse – we try to get them to a safe environment (away from bodies of water, traffic, riding bikes or scooters, etc.).

 

It is good to replenish fluids for the intoxicated (clean water, or sweetened tea, which also replenishes the lost sugar). This may result in vomiting, but vomiting is also welcome in case of alcohol poisoning. It is good to speak to the person under the influence in a simple, appropriate volume and handle touches carefully so that they do not feel threatened and do not react aggressively.

In the case of alcohol poisoning, which is not uncommon among young people (due to their smaller and unaccustomed bodies), do not hesitate to call for an ambulance. Without exaggeration, it can be said that this can save a young life.

In such situations, it makes no sense to “preach” to intoxicated young people. We try to find time for a conversation about what happened, their motivations, and reasons when they are fully able to perceive it.

Since these situations occur in public places, the behavior of these young people and our reactions are often observed by other children and adolescents. We can communicate with them about alcohol immediately if possible. If there is an opportunity, one of the team can deal with the observing group, and if the situation requires the collaboration of both field workers, they can return to this topic at the nearest contact.

The aim of this article was mainly to talk about our observations and practice, which is based on recommended methodologies and procedures. If you need more information on this topic, you can visit websites such as ROZUMNE.SK. If you need advice regarding your loved one, you can use our counseling services.