Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teenage Drinking

I attended an information evening run by the Lucena Foundation in UCD on 9th September 2009 given by Dr Bobby Smyth, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, who specialises in addiction. The title of the evening was:

Preventing Drug & Alcohol Problems In Teenagers - What Parents Can do

It was an excellent evening and certainly very thought provoking. An excellent summary of the evening can be found in an Irish Times article here.

Some of the points raised were the following:

  • It is better to delay drinking with teenagers. He counselled against the offering of a glass of wine by a parent to a teenager at the Sunday dinner
  • Alcohol abuse is the gateway drug to other drugs, most addicts state that they were intoxicated with alcohol when they first took cocaine
  • He contrasted the Irish cultural experience of abuse of alcohol with continental Europe’s use of alcohol and, basically they don’t do drunkenness unlike the Irish
  • Very interestingly, he also distinguishes between a once off bout of teenage drunkenness and long term problems, he states the following “The more normal, healthy and adaptive that [childhood] is, the more evidence of resilience and coping skills they show during childhood, the more optimistic I am that they are actually going to get through this current situation. I worry more about the teenagers who, when you track back to how they were at primary school, at home with mum and dad, with friends, as an eight year old and a four year old and a two year old and you see that they have actually struggled throughout.”
  • He mentioned a Search Institute based in the US which have identified 40 building blocks of healthy development, these can be found at www.search-institute.org According to Dr. Smyth “If kids grow up in an environment where they have 25 of those 40, they tend to do very well,” says Smyth. “They tend to avoid a lot of negative outcomes in life, whether it is depression, self-harm, drug abuse or criminality.”

Overall a very informative evening.


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