Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Problems Associated with Drinking in Young People in Croatia

Academic journal article Alcoholism and Psychiatry Research

Problems Associated with Drinking in Young People in Croatia

Article excerpt

Consumption of alcohol, excessive alcohol consumption, alcohol dependence and other alcohol related complications, represent a large public health problem of every society, including Croatian. After the consequences of excessive and non-quality eating, cardiovascular diseases; and smoking, fatality from respiratory system cancers; alcohol related problems, considering their numbers and severity, make up the third largest public health problem in Croatia. After the coronary and cerebrovascular infarction, and coronary insufficiency, chronic liver disease and liver cirrhosis are the leading courses of mortality among men in Croatia. Among women, cirrhosis is not so frequent among the mortality causes, because in our population, the alcohol-dependent men outnumber women by 3.6 to 1. Presently in Croatia, there are currently approximately 250 thousand people with alcohol dependence, whilst up to 800 thousand people excessively drink alcohol. From that number of alcoholics, only about 7500 get treated for their problem. Croatian society, traditionally lenient towards drinking customs, ritually tightly connected with alcohol, open to so called »benefits from a glass or two«, and blind to the consequences of alcoholism, is continuously creating and supporting pre-conditions, favorable social surroundings for the recruitment of new alcoholics. Western societies, traditionally inclined towards alcohol, hypocritically and greedily earning money and filling the state and the private budgets through taxation, are blaming the alcoholics themselves and their families for the consequences of alcoholism, such as disease and family suffering.1"6 The ultimate moment in that hypocrisy is stimulation of production and consumption of alcohol in order to increase the gross national product. No one wants to see the society spending money earned from alcohol trade on dealing with the consequences of alcohol consumption.

The guilt for development of dependence is projected solely on the individual, his weakness and lack of morality, while addictive properties of alcohol are being omitted. How can a society, with the relation towards alcohol consumption such as described, successfully deal with the problem of drinking among its children and adolescents? Is it at all possible to detach youth drinking from the general problem of drinking in society?7"9

Differently to adults who, as we mentioned before, drink frequently and excessively, the young people drink less frequently, but almost always with the intention of getting drunk. In accordance with the young people's philosophy, that usually implies neglecting the objective risks and often, even excepting them knowingly, living here and today, being convinced of their immortality.10'11 Alcohol brings the young person relaxation, euphoria, induces spontaneity, closeness to peers, releases sexuality, removing immature brakes of conciseness and restraints. Also, alcohol is often a ticket to the world of peers who also drink excessively and occasionally. Therefore, they often use alcohol as a symbolic means of initiation into the groups of peers. Precisely at that moment, the group is taking over the influence over further drinking and the behavior of young people, so the continuity of bad examples, connected with alcohol consumption in the primary family, is kept through the group of peers.

Unfortunately, the age limit for entering the alcohol -drinking world has been in the last years getting ever lower in Croatia, and is now 13 for boys and 14 for girls.12 And while at those 13 and 14 year old levels Croatia resides somewhere around the European average, without any significant negative difference to its surroundings, at the age of 1 5, Croatia is already close to the European top. Precisely this information suggests that the preventing work with elementary school children is failing, that our work in prevention of alcohol related problems is not good enough. Large funds are being given for the prevention of light and heavy drugs use among the youth, whilst only pitifully small funds are given for the prevention of youth alcohol use, simply because that problem was systematically underestimated until now. …

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