Teenagers have been using and abusing alcohol since the beginning of recorded history. Parents and caregivers have shown concern and tried to find methods to control and stop teenager drinking, but there have never been more reasons to fight teenage alcohol use than there are today – with our insight into the neurological systems of teenagers, the availability of other kinds of drugs, and the prevalence of young people behind the wheels of motor vehicles.
- Alcohol use can adversely affect teenager’s memory and ability to pay attention
- It can lead to bad choices and consequences
- Teenagers who abuse alcohol are more likely than adults are to mix alcohol with drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana
- Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to engage in unsafe sex or sex with an adult
- Alcohol use in teens lead to almost 2,000 deaths per year caused by accidents due to underage drinking
- Heavy alcohol use in teenagers can be a sign of other problems that need attention, such as depression and anxiety
- Suicide attempts are increased in teens who often use alcohol, and positive alcohol blood levels are frequently found in suicide victims
- People who drink at an early age are more likely to become alcoholics later in life than those who wait to turn 21 before drinking
- Alcohol poisoning is a very real risk of over consumption, which slows down the body’s functioning and can lead to choking, stopped breathing, stopped heartbeat and death
What are the Signs of Heavy Alcohol Use in Teens?
A teenager who was once pleasant or showed interest in a variety of things and has become argumentative, passive or unengaged could be using alcohol or other drugs. While many teenagers reach a point where their attitude changes or they become more disagreeable, these traits will be markedly different or more intense than in teenagers who don’t abuse alcohol. Another symptom of alcohol abuse is having sudden troubles in school, such as poor performance and not attending class. Teenagers may have bloodshot eyes, a more sloppy appearance, less than ideal hygiene, and smell of alcohol. Other symptoms of heavy alcohol use are a sudden change in friends, lying, stealing, and not returning home when expected.
Treatments and Help
There are a few medications which have been shown to have positive effects on the decrease in alcohol consumption. Some medications work by blocking the endorphins that spike when alcohol is consumed, and others work by creating unpleasant side-effects when alcohol is taken. Speak to your teenager’s doctor about the different options available. Many medicines have not been specifically approved for persons under18 years of age.
Another effective treatment for some is addressing other issues such as depression and anxiety with a combination of medication, counseling, and stress management techniques.
For heavy alcohol users, three to five month rehabilitation centers may be an option, which work by restricting access to alcohol, group counseling, and learning coping techniques. Other options are individual and family counseling. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most popular support group, which works by utilizing a 12-step program to recovery. Be careful when choosing therapies and support groups, as groups with a high concentration of teen users are actually found to increase the likelihood of continued abuse or relapse.
For teenagers who are not yet drinking or who are not in the critical stages of alcohol abuse, the most important things parents can do are:
- Talk to your teen about alcohol and its effects and consequences
- Set clear and fair boundaries about your expectations
- Limit access to alcohol in the house
- Engage your teenager in extracurricular activities
- Offer adequate parental supervision
- Teach your teen about stress management skills and coping techniques