Our Opinion: Teens and the trap of mood-altering substances

If the solution to the problem of teen drinking were simple, it would have been found long before now.

Alcohol is a mood-altering substance, and people — adults as well as teens — seek to alter their moods for a variety of reasons. People consume alcohol to find relief or to reward themselves, to escape or feel the buzz of exhilaration, to cope with circumstances or numb themselves.

Alcohol consumption is a problem affecting both adults and teens when it: leads to threatening behaviors, including drunk driving and acts of violence; or becomes an addiction that destroys families, finances, health, etc.

In addition, consumption by youth under age 21 is illegal because alcohol damages brain development, which continues into a person’s mid-20s.

In theory, people would feel no desire, need or compulsion to alter their moods if they were satisfied with themselves and their existing circumstances.

In reality, no one enjoys an ideal life in a utopian world.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be better.

Countless thinkers, behaviorists, social scientists and others extol the value of self-esteem and a positive attitude.

Building those values in young people is where parents — and educators and role models — have a vital and necessary role to play.

In a story in Saturday’s News Tribune, Angie Carter, a certified substance abuse counselor, described some of the “red flags” indicating teen drinking. She also posed some questions for parents to ask children to facilitate honest, open communication.

Building self-worth and a positive attitude is an ongoing process.

It begins within and extends outward. In a ripple effect, people who feel good about themselves develop gratitude and appreciation for family, community and their fellow man.

People deserve to enjoy opportunities to grow, learn, hone talents and serve others. They deserve to feel good.

Mood-altering substances may mimic feeling good, but the sensation is artificial, temporary and frequently carries negative consequences.

Experimentation — including trying alcohol and drugs — often accompanies growing up.

We all must work to prevent teens from being trapped by mood-altering substances, because they have so much more to offer.

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