Alcopops: How A Seemingly Innocent Drink Can Be A Trap For Addiction With Youth
These narratives make alcohol use seem interesting, fun, and even cool, which can mean that alcohol looks a lot more tempting to young people who aren’t old enough to drink safely, and for whom drinking alcohol can be more dangerous.
Alcopops are just one more thing that can make it easier and more tempting for young people to drink when they shouldn’t and can also lead to misunderstandings about the dangers of alcohol and what safe drinking looks like.
If you haven’t heard of alcopops or want to learn more about these drinks and why they can be more dangerous for young drinkers, you’re in the right place.
If you’ve heard of alcopops and want to understand the risks and dangers better or aren’t sure that there are risks and dangers, you’re in the right place.
Let’s talk about what alcopops are, what makes them different from other kinds of alcohol, and how they can be an addictive risk.
What Are Alcopops & How Can They Be Dangerous?
Most parents know that alcohol isn’t good for their children and that teenagers are likely to try and experiment with alcohol. But they don’t necessarily know how teenagers will experiment, or what they are most likely to experiment with, which can make it harder to intervene in dangerous drinking behavior.
Alcopops, alcoholic drinks designed to look and taste more like soda than other alcoholic beverages, might not be what you think of dangerous or harmful drinking behavior.
These drinks tend to have relatively low alcohol content (typically 3-7%) [Replaced hyperlink for easier reference] and are sugary and sweet instead of having a more identifiable alcohol taste like wine, beer, or liquor.
Not having that bitter taste or not tasting as strongly of alcohol can make these kinds of beverages more appealing to younger drinkers. The name alcopop refers to the fact that these are alcoholic beverages that are designed to taste more like soda than alcohol.
However, the problem is that the low alcohol content and sweet taste can encourage unsafe behavior because it doesn’t seem like there are as many risks as with other kinds of alcohol, especially hard alcohol.
People are more likely to drink several alcopops in a row than other drinks, especially when they are younger and aren’t familiar with the effects of alcohol. Unfortunately, once an inexperienced drinker has had one to two drinks, their inhibitions are lower, making them more likely to decide to have another.
The sugar in alcopop drinks is also a potential contributing factor when young people consume these drinks. Sugar can be dehydrating, especially in large quantities. Alcohol is also dehydrating, and both can make you thirsty.
Inexperienced drinkers might not realize that they need to hydrate more while drinking and instead reach for another alcopop when thirsty, worsening dehydration issues.
When you combine dehydration with alcohol use, things can get more dangerous because your body doesn’t have the resources to process and deal with the alcohol.
Alcopops include anything with relatively low sugar content that sounds or looks similar to sodas or lemonades. In addition, they are generally available in either glass bottles or aluminum cans, similar in size and shape to pops and sodas. All of these factors can make things a little more difficult for young and inexperienced people to behave responsibly or safely.
Add the issue of peer pressure, especially in groups where no one is informed about the dangers of alcohol and how to drink responsibly, and you can have a significant problem that can quickly spiral out of control.
How Drinking Alcopops Can Lead To An Addiction To Alcohol
Addiction to alcohol from drinking alcopops often starts long before the youth doing the drinking realizes what’s happening.
For one thing, inexperienced drinkers likely think alcopops have less alcohol than the average beer. The truth is that these drinks have the same amount of alcohol or more, but you generally can’t taste the alcohol as clearly.
As a result, beer sales have decreased, while sales of alcopops have increased significantly.
That tells us not that people are drinking less but that the drink of choice has changed and that the drink of choice for binge drinking has changed.
Since these beverages are sugary, sweet, and generally easy to drink, unlike other alcoholic beverages that will often have more physical effects that you can notice right away when you’re drinking too much, it’s easier to drink a lot of alcopops in a single binge.
Binge drinking is common in settings like parties, illicit hangouts, sneaking out of the home, and anytime teenagers can misbehave and think they are safe enough to manage it.
However, binge drinking is also one of the behaviors most likely to lead to addiction. This is partly because hangovers and severe withdrawal symptoms from drinking too much alcohol may lead youth to drink more to feel better.
Every time you drink more, especially if you don’t wait very long between drinking, you’re more likely to develop an addiction, a chemical dependence, or a psychological dependence on the drug.
And yes, alcohol, even very sweet alcohol like alcopops, is a drug.
How To Spot An Addiction To Alcopops In Youth
One of the struggles of dealing with addiction in youth, especially teenagers and younger individuals, is that they almost always know that they are doing something that their parents, teachers, and other adult mentors will try to stop. Unfortunately, that means that the youth are likely to try and hide or mask these behaviors.
Most teenagers also know better than to use the old tricks like pouring a drink into a water bottle to consume it.
That means that you need to think a little like they are before you’re likely to spot the signs of addiction in young people and that you may need to be frank with them when you’re talking about your suspicions.
It is a good idea to talk to the youth you suspect may be addicted, especially if you’re a parent or otherwise in a position of authority over them. Try to avoid getting angry with them. It’s usually better to calmly explain the risks and why you’re worried about their behavior, offer support, and try to find out why they started the problematic behavior in the first place.
That said, here are some signs that a teenager or young person is addicted to alcopops or other alcohol.
- You notice a sudden personality change
- They are spending less time with you and less time with friends
- They are withdrawn and tend to spend more time alone than not.
- They’ve started wearing more scented products like lotions, perfume/cologne, or body spray.
- They aren’t eating as much as they used to.
- They are eating at abnormal hours
- They seem unusually pale or have dark shadows under their eyes
- They actively avoid conversations about alcohol.
- If alcohol is offered to them, they seem oddly knowledgeable.
- They frequently talk about lemonade, sodas, or other beverages but don’t seem to drink them when you provide those beverages
In addition, you should also look for other signs of alcohol addiction, including having trouble waking up in the morning, staying out later than usual at night, and behavioral changes. For example, youth addicted to alcopops might be more likely to skip school or see a decrease in school or work performance, especially if other explanations aren’t available.
Youth struggling with mental health problems, recent trauma, or major upheaval and change are also at higher risk of addiction to alcopops and other drugs and alcohol.
What To Do If Someone You Love Is Addicted To Alcohol Or Alcopops
If someone you love is addicted to alcopops, you need to remember that they are not entirely in control of their behavior and that the addiction is driving some of their attitudes, moves, and behaviors as much as they are.
Especially in youth, it can be difficult to control addiction and even harder to control the emotions around addiction, especially if they are afraid of being caught, feel guilty about the addiction, are ashamed, or are worried about disappointing and losing the affection of their loved ones.
So, with all of that in mind, it’s important to address the problem and reaffirm that you are there to support your loved one and that you will work on this together and with the help of qualified professionals.
It’s a good idea to take youth in for professional evaluation from a health care provider, treatment center, or therapist. That’s especially important because there may be underlying problems that must be dealt with simultaneously with the addiction.
Treatment centers may be particularly useful for youth with a youth-specific program because they can help identify and treat harmful patterns of behavior and are good places for youth to begin the skill building they will need to recover from addiction and get back on track successfully.
It’s also a good idea to find support options in addition to the main treatment program you choose. Fear or punishment-based programs rarely work. Instead, support, education, and understanding are usually the most important tools in fighting youth addiction.
If you have a young loved one who needs help with an alcopop addiction or another addiction, Epiphany Wellness treatment center may be able to help. Contact us to learn more about our programs, intake requirements, and what you and your loved one can expect from treatment here.
1. Williams Z. Alcopops are back – but why are they being sold as a wellness trend? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/oct/24/alcopops-are-back-but-why-are-they-being-sold-as-a-wellness-trend. Published October 24, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2022.
2. Center for Applied Research Solutions. What are Alcopops. Accessed August 19, 2022. http://www.youthbingedrinking.org/facts/d_alcopops.html
3. Miller C. Mental Health Disorders and Teen Substance Use. Child Mind Institute. Published July 28, 2022. Accessed August 19, 2022. https://childmind.org/article/mental-health-disorders-and-substance-use/