Teen Alcohol Abuse

  1. Table of ContentsPrint
  2. Signs Your Teen May Be Abusing Alcohol
  3. As A Parent, How Should I Respond?
  4. Is Alcohol Rehab Necessary?

Surveys from the last few years suggest that, on average, more than half of high school students from 10th to 12th grade have engaged in drinking behavior.

Underage drinking presents a wide range of dangers to your teen’s health and well-being.

In 2013, close to half of Americans high school students in 10th grade reported drinking behavior in the past year. The numbers rise with age—jumping for the seniors in high school who were similarly surveyed—with results approaching 65% having used calendar in the last 12 months. While these numbers reflect even a single drink within the calendar year, studies have shown that a significant number of underage drinkers meet the criteria for binge drinking — consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks in a single sitting. (NIAA, 2013; CDC, 2015; Weddle and Kokotailo, 2009)

These are depressing statistics for parents to take in. Even teens showing no overt signs of problematic behavior could be at risk for a variety of dangers associated with underage alcohol consumption. With a certain amount of vigilance, and with a fair share of honest and open communication, however, parents can do much for their teens in terms of preventing or addressing an existing drinking problem.


Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 1



Credit: Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)


Signs Your Teen May Be Abusing Alcohol

It’s no easy task for a parent to accurately detect possible alcohol abuse, even in a teenager that lives under their roof. Some of the symptoms of a drinking problem might mimic some signs that might arise for otherwise unrelated causes in this age group. Some of these signs include:

Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 2

  • Decreased involvement in extracurricular activity.
  • Lethargy.
  • A decline in study habits.
  • Symptoms of depression.
  • A decline in time spent with family.
  • Weight changes.
  • Erratic behavior.
  • Combativeness towards parents or other authority figures.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Deterioration in physical appearance and personal grooming.
  • Seizures without a history of epilepsy.
  • Using eyedrops to hide blood-shot eyes.
  • Change in relationships.
  • (NCADD, 2015; American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

A household that contains alcoholic beverages is at particular risk, and attention should be paid to changes in the amounts remaining in bottles of liquor, or the number of beers in the fridge.

If your adolescent or teen is displaying signs of alcohol or drug abuse, call 1-888-744-0069 to discuss treatment options.

Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 3


As A Parent, How Should I Respond?

In short, you should respond quickly. Underage drinking presents a wide range of dangers to your teen’s health and well-being. Hospital records stand testament to the number of motor vehicle and other accidents that result secondary to alcohol consumption in this age group. Furthermore, a teen that drinks is, statistically, also at higher risk for falling victim to violent crime, sexual assault, homicide and suicide. Drinking behavior tends to go hand-in-hand with drug abuse, strengthening the position to act quickly if you suspect an alcohol problem might be developing.  Let’s also not forget that underage drinking is against the law, and a host of legal issues might crop up for a teen caught with alcohol.

Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 4

In terms of prevention, take solace in the fact that programs are probably already in place at your teen’s school, helping to educate them to the risks and provide strategies and motivation to abstain from drinking behavior. As a parent though, there certainly is a role for you to play in responding to the problem, and it begins with open and honest, judgment-free communication with your family. Similar to how the schools have periodic educational sessions, it helps to sit your entire family down to go over the topic of alcohol and alcohol abuse. Tell them stories that you’ve encountered about the associated dangers. Set and then follow-up in enforcing house guidelines against drinking.(Griffin and Botvin, 2009)

Above all, keep an open line of communication when it comes to any questions or concerns that have about alcohol and drugs. Studies show time and time again that parents who are actively involved in the lives of their children are much less likely to raise adolescents and teenagers who drink.

Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 5


Is Alcohol Rehab Necessary?

The serious problems that can result when young people begin to abuse alcohol can’t always be addressed by family support alone. Intervention by trained professionals is frequently called for. By no means does seeking this type of help represent a shortcoming of previous parental efforts. It merely reflects the severity of the issue at hand.

Setting up visits to a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other substance abuse treatment professional are all good first options. There are some situations that will require further intervention, such as outpatient and, potentially, inpatient substance abuse treatment should the situation call for it.

Talking with a professional at any stage of the process can help a parent make the right choice in alcohol abuse treatment type, should it be warranted.
Teen Alcohol Abuse Quiz question 6

Find out about the harmful effects of alcohol use and how to help a alcoholic teen by calling our helpline at  1-888-744-0069.

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