Frequently when friends and family gather there is drinking. Along with the good food and conversation, alcohol is served. In many ways, this is socially acceptable. It’s natural to want to have a glass of wine while you’re enjoying your time with family and friends.
Yet, when drinking is done alone, the reasons for having a beer or a glass of wine change. Instead of wanting to drink to loosen up a bit, drinking alone might be the result of feeling lonely, sad, or depressed. And if these are the reasons behind drinking, then it could in fact lead to an addiction later in life.
This is what a recent research study performed by Carnegie Mellon University recently confirmed. They found that teens who drink alone are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder in their early adulthood. In fact, the study found that compared to teens who only drink in social settings, teens who drink alone tended to have more alcohol addiction or problems later. For instance, they became heavier drinkers, were more likely to drink in response to negative emotions, and were not interested in sober living in the near future.
The study surveyed 709 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 at the Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol Research Center. They were asked about their alcohol use in the past year and then again when they reached the age of 25. The participants of the study were teens from clinical treatment programs as well as from the community. The results revealed that 38.8% of teens surveyed reported that they drank alone and that this drinking was related to having unpleasant emotions. The teens who drank alone were 1.5 times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction by the time they reached 25.
It’s clear that drinking alone is an early warning sign for developing an alcohol disorder later in life. Furthermore, there was a clear relationship between negative emotions and drinking. This is helpful regarding treatment and prevention. Educating teens on ways to cope with their emotions in a healthy way can perhaps be a way to prevent the development of alcohol addiction or disorders. In fact, this sort of education could also be useful in sober living programs in order to teach residents how to effectively deal with unpleasant inner experiences and prevent relapse.
Along these lines, Tammy Chung, associate professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, commented on the study:
Because adolescent solitary drinking is an early warning sign for alcohol use disorder in young adulthood, and solitary drinking tends to occur in response to negative emotions, youth who report solitary drinking might benefit from interventions that teach more adaptive strategies for coping with negative emotions
For those who are already in recovery and who have a history of sober living, learning this can also be helpful. It can be useful to know the patterns that drive an addiction, even years later. For instance, it can confirm the need to learn healthy coping mechanisms to challenging feelings, unpleasant circumstances, and stressful situations. Even individuals who do not have an addiction need to learn ways to manage their feelings, including negative emotions and stress.
In fact, learning how to manage responses to life is should be a lifelong experience. As individuals move into various stages of life, learning how to cope and accept changes is a lesson everyone needs to learn. Certainly, adolescence is a stressful time of change and an experience that can drive one to drink. Yet, if teens learn healthy coping mechanisms early in their lives, those tools can be used long into their adulthood. Learning how to manage feelings of loneliness, confusion, anger, and sadness is a skill that will always be useful.