CHILDREN who have access to cheap alcohol can develop addiction or even worse Alcohol Dependance Syndrome (ADS), said consultant psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj.
ADS is a syndrome where the person who routinely consumes alcohol needs to consume more and more to get the same effect.
“They also start drinking earlier because their system craves it. This usually happens in adults after many years of drinking, but even teenagers and young adults can develop this,” said Dr Andrew to Metro Perak.
He also said that children with conduct disorder, a range of antisocial types of behaviour displayed in childhood or adolescence, have a tendency towards substance and alcohol abuse.
“Later in life, children with conduct disorder can develop anti-social personality disorders, which can be very disruptive.
Alcohol consumption in children and teenagers can interfere with normal development into adulthood,” he said.
Other psychological conditions like childhood depression and childhood anxiety disorder can predispose children and teenagers towards alcohol dependence.
Children whose parents consume alcohol irresponsibly have a higher chance of alcohol abuse too.
He also said that children who have suffered physical abuse and childhood psychological trauma have a greater tendency to develop alcohol dependence.
“Physical abuse by an alcoholic parent or parents is the perfect recipe for children to consume alcohol at a young age. This will lead to violence, disruptive social behaviour and abnormal development of personality in adulthood.
“Certainly access to and the availability of cheap alcohol also contributes to this – just as we see in drug addiction.”
Perak Health Department Director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said the consequences of underage drinking can lead to many problems. Some of the problems she listed include poor academic performance, violence, drunk driving, health issues, unwanted, unplanned sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, memory loss, abuse of other drugs, changes in brain development, higher risk of suicide, and death from alcohol poisoning.
To combat the problem, the State Health Department has conducted alcohol awareness programmes in health clinics. The department also conducts screening for alcohol use and interventions in clinics with family medicine specialists.
“Reports indicate that students, orang asli and illegal racers are the main buyers of cheap alcohol. The Health Ministry has programmes with local authorities and consumer associations for awareness and control of alcohol sales.
“We also have a programme with the State Education Department in schools for drug, alcohol and smoking prevention,” she said.
Dr Andrew urged parents to demonstrate good parenting skills and also set a good example to their children.
“Physical abuse by alcoholic parents is almost a perfect recipe for them to be exposed to alcohol abuse. The law against allowing children and teenagers to purchase alcohol must be strictly enforced.”