I wrote an article a while ago, called ‘Another Lost Generation?’ When I was young, a generation of young men had been lost in World Wars 1 and both young men and women were being killed in World War 2. That article expressed my concerns, as a retired psychiatrist with 35 years work experience, at the present day culture of many young people. Increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults are drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, which will, if the practice continues, lead to another generation dying prematurely.
I pointed out that the human body has not changed and that it was just as easily damaged by excessive alcohol as it has ever been. There has been no miraculous evolutionary process to give protection. I spoke of the damage to the body, in particular to the liver and the brain. Alcohol in excess produces symptoms of paranoia but much worse, is the untreatable, and irreversible damage to the short term memory, without which life has little meaning.
I also wrote of the increased vulnerability to traumas when intoxicated, e.g. the dangers of unprotected sex, and the dangers of being incapacitated through intoxication thus making easy prey to those who have intentions to harm, and being unable to take care of even the basics at that time.
I wonder why the doctors and others who have expertise in the relevant field and who speak out are not being listened to. The knowledge and advice goes unheeded, as patently and persistently, all speak to deaf ears.
The ears of teenagers and young adults who drink excessively are deaf. They simply see no reason for listening or changing their behaviour. Not only that, but they think it is ‘cool’ or ‘a laugh’ or ‘a good time’, and what is really sinister, is that they go out deliberately intending to ‘get smashed’.
The ears of parents who give their children money to buy alcohol, make it accessible at home, or even give them the alcohol to take out with them are deaf. Many parents even give police abuse if they are questioned about their child’s excessive drinking and many don’t even know where their teenagers are in the evenings.
I write ‘child’ in this context deliberately, because a teenager has neither the knowledge nor experience of an adult, and, in my opinion, is still the responsibility of the parents. They say that ‘he/she is only having fun.’
Reneging on parental responsibility in this way is helping to deny their child their birthright – to have a healthy adult life and the ability to fulfil their potential.
Many of those teenagers drinking excessively will not stop doing so when they are older or ‘more sensible’, as alcohol is addictive, and even minimal damage will have an effect. Our brain is our most precious gift in life, and should not be damaged at any cost to fill the coffers of the government via alcohol taxation or for other individuals’ financial benefit.
I worked with grieving parents, those who had lost teenagers through illness, car accident or in conflicts in the army and such like tragedies. They had no choice in what happened or in their subsequent suffering. But parents of teenagers who drink have choice – up to the point where it is too late. It takes the continuation of much love, effort and time to guide a teenager through those years in order to develop independence and value health. ‘Fun’ is a word which needs to be qualified!
Many of these parents, in the future, will be grieving at the funerals of their prematurely dead sons and daughters or looking after those with early dementia. The grief will be with the parents for the rest of their lifetimes. The surge of great concern and affection for their offspring, which all will inevitably feel after their child’s death, will always be linked to having to accept that they not only allowed but even encouraged this tragedy to happen
But, finally on this point, let me explain that anger and guilt prevent grief from being resolved, and unresolved grief is no ‘fun’. In my work, I used to help people resolve unnecessary anger or guilt either with themselves of with those who had died, and hence help their wounds to heal. But, if the guilt or anger, which is connected with their own action or lack of action, is accurate, true or deserved, then the grief can live on without reprieve and undimmed by the passage of time.
I read the other day that a university, an organisation whose whole purpose is or ‘was’ to promote learning, had applied for permission for a licence that, as and when desired, allowed the university union bar to be open until 5 a.m. This was granted by the authorities.
I read it twice as I simply could not believe what I read. Has disregard for health of young people been eroded this far? The article said that the bar is already able to function to 3 a.m. (it mentioned regularly on Wednesday evenings) and attendance at Thursday morning lectures is depleted!
I know that some universities take care of their students, but surely every University has a responsibility for the welfare of these young adults.
I understand that Universities are concerned with money, but, surely a line should be drawn in the ways and means of making money. How anyone in their right mind even suggests that students should be drinking till 3 a.m. during the week on any evening of any week, never mind drinking until 5 a.m. is quite disgraceful and totally irresponsible. Who is responsible for employing people in these institutions who care so little for the young people as to make or agree to these decisions, knowing the ages of those likely to be involved? And who, on the council involved would agree to such an arrangement. The decision is, in my informed judgment, disgusting and sick.
Secondary schools and universities should have compulsory, yearly lectures which educate all students on the dangers of excessive alcohol, rather than allowing and encouraging them to be drinking.
If all students even watched a short film of a 30-40 year old adult with short term memory loss from excessive drinking, they would soon realise that the rational, learning, understanding and functioning brain was irrevocably destroyed. I do believe that they would be shocked and, at the very least, start to believe it wasn’t ‘cool’ or ‘fun’.
When they eventually realise they are walking the same road, then maybe those who drink heavily will change direction. If not, then they will reap the consequences.
If parents allow, pay for, and even encourage alcohol intake, and if those in higher education promote long drinking hours, and when peers indulge in the same behaviour as ‘fun’, then what is the chance of change? For any teenager to have to ‘fight against the flow’ is not easy, and they need support from parents. The other, related question I ask is where on earth do students get sufficient money to afford to drink so excessively? Most students have little spare cash, so, for the heavy drinkers, debt appears to have no fears either.
I suppose at 74 yrs of age, I can be considered old, out of touch, a fuddy-duddy, a kill joy, a miserable old sod, or whatever else anyone wants to call me. Of those, I accept only ‘old’. My opinion is not based on personal criteria or choice, but on knowledge and experience, both of which make me feel grave concern.
Are those of us who write about the dangers of drinking excessive alcohol wasting our time?
Maybe it will only be when a significant increase in liver disease in the young with death from liver failure, or alcohol related dementia, and the toll of premature deaths tell their sad story, that notice will be taken.
The solution is obvious. But, how to achieve that solution is not, as so many difficult decisions need to be taken which are being reneged on at present.
Even the parents who really do care and love their children find themselves turning a blind eye to what is happening. Others simply appear not to care. Can the parents of these excessive drinkers be made to intervene? Can parents understand they need to spend enough time and effort with their young children to build bonds which are strong enough to face and overcome later conflict? Is their caring deep enough or are the pressures too great?
All I can say is that when coping with the irreversible damage to health or standing at the funeral, any intervention will be too late. The relevant information is being given by many, so ignorance of consequences will not be an excuse.
Sadly, hedonism is the ‘order of the day’ amongst many young people and, when money and greed rule the world, it seems that even establishments, which should have higher ideals, will be seduced.
With the prevailing attitudes, I may as well write this warning in invisible ink!
My book 'Choice for teenagers' is written to encourage teenagers of accept values in life which lead to health and fulfilment, not destruction and possible early death. Having fun is one thing, drinking excessively is another.The book is a book of metaphorical poems covering many issues of teenage life, including alcohol intake and drugs.
This book is avaible as a paperback and also, very cheaply, as an ebook for Kindle, and with the free Kindle App, for PC/ iPad/ipod and iPhone.