Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Teen Risk for Gambling and Alcoholism. New Prediction Study

As a parent, wouldn’t it be great if you knew every issue and struggle that your child would face in life? If you did, you could do everything within your power to prevent those problems from ever occurring, and you would be better armed to confront them if they did occur.

While there’s no surefire way to tell what problems your teen will experience in his life, a new study from the Journal of Addiction Medicine reveals that there may just be a way to determine if your teen will one day struggle with substance abuse or alcoholism. That way is the Cambridge Gambling Task, a test that evaluates the decisions young adults make and then uses those evaluations to determine the participants’ likelihood of developing alcoholism or high frequency use of alcohol.

The study found that participants who were classified as “high-risk decision makers” were more likely to be at risk for alcohol use after only one year.

Other Predictors of Risk

Unfortunately, the average parent is not going to have access to the Cambridge Gambling Task to determine their child’s risk for alcoholism and general substance abuse. With that said, however, there are some known risks factors for alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) lists these risk factors as:

  • Childhood anti-social behavior
  • Genetics (e.g., having a relative who is a substance abuser or alcoholic)
  • Having a psychiatric disorder
  • Exhibiting suicidal behavior
  • Having peers, parents, or other close family members or acquaintances who abuse alcohol or who encourage the teen to abuse alcohol
  • Lack of knowledge or understanding of alcohol and its effects
  • Having experienced childhood abuse or trauma
  • Being subjected to advertising that paints alcohol use in a positive light

If your teen meets one or more of the risk factors described above, understand that this does not necessarily mean that he will definitely develop a problem with alcohol. It only means that the chance of doing so is higher. Many people who meet one or more of these risk factors do not end up developing a substance abuse problem or an addiction, and some who exhibit none of them ultimately face the need for alcohol abuse treatment.

What Can You Do if Your Teen Is at Risk?

If you know, based on the above listed risk factors, that your teen is at risk for alcohol abuse, you should be all the more vigilant about educating him about alcohol and the consequences of using the substance while underage. All teens need to know this information, but it is particularly important for at-risk teens.

It’s important to also make sure that you model good behavior by using alcohol responsibly or avoiding it altogether, and, if your teen does develop a problem, seek help for him as soon as possible. Call us at Muir Wood today for more information.