What are the symptoms or warning signs of teenage alcohol abuse?
Although some of the common warning signs connected to alcohol abuse can also seem like “typical teenage behavior” here are some of the symptoms parents should be aware of:
- Anger – acting physically or verbally aggressive towards others at home or school.
- Lying – not clear about where they were or who they were with, making excuses, breaking their curfew.
- Seclusion – locking themselves in their room, refusing to participate in family activities.
- Physical Indicators – smells like alcohol, eyes are bloodshot, speech is slurred.
Teen Alcohol Abuse Risks
Teens don’t always just have a drink, they binge drink. Statistics show that 50% of high school sophomores drink, 65% of high school seniors drink, and the majority of these high schoolers admit to getting drunk at least once in the last month.
Alcohol abuse dangers:
Alcohol Poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is especially dangerous, as the results can be fatal. Teens are often unaware of the risks of drinking too much, so it’s important that parents understand the risks, in order to educate their teens. Alcohol poisoning is brought-on by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in a short timeframe. Alcohol slows down the processes of internal organs and body functions — such as your breathing patterns, heart rate and even gag reflex. When too much alcohol is consumed the individual can pass out, go into a coma, choke, stop breathing, and – in extreme cases – the heart can suddenly stop, leading to death.
Brain Development Issues. Research shows that a teenager’s brain continues to develop into their early 20’s. During the developmental years, exposure to alcohol can have long-lasting effects on the brain’s capability to retain information. Early exposure to alcohol is also directly linked to alcoholism later on in life. The risk of becoming addicted to alcohol is reduced by 14% for each year that alcohol consumption is delayed.
Drinking and Driving. For teens, ages 15 – 20 years old, automobile accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States. Almost 2,000 kids under the age of 21 die each year from auto accidents that involve underage alcohol consumption. Teenagers who are still beginning to learn how to drive are more susceptible to poor judgment already; add alcohol to the equation and the results are deadly! Kids ages 16 – 20 years old are 50% more likely to be in a deadly car crash as people who drink and drive over the age of 21.
Unsafe Sex. Teens who drink are 50% more likely to have sexual intercourse than the teens that don’t drink alcohol. When a teenager binge drinks, they are 10 times more likely to engage in sexual activity. Teens that drink are also more likely to make risky decisions, such as having sex with a stranger, or not using protection – which drastically increases the likelihood of contracting an STD or teenage pregnancy.
Depression and Suicide. Alcohol itself is a depressant. A teen who is already struggling with a mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety or stress — that abuses alcohol – is on a dangerous path. Mental issues — coupled with alcohol — are estimated to lead to over 300 teenage suicides each year. Studies show that high school teens that drink alcohol are twice as likely to have considered committing suicide – compared to kids who don’t drink.
Poor Academic Performance. There is a direct correlation between teen alcohol abuse and grades in school. Almost 50% of students with mostly D’s and F’s in school report abusing alcohol, whereas 30% of students with mostly A’s don’t drink alcohol at all. Teens who abuse alcohol are also more likely to skip class or perform poorly due to physical symptoms.
How you can help your teen stay away from alcohol:
- Educate. Teach your teen about the risks (outlined above) and warn them about the dangers of even experimenting with drugs and alcohol. In addition to the physical and mental side effects, alcohol leads many individuals to lie, cheat and steal – which ends in damaged relationships or trouble with the law.
- Communicate. Many parents drink alcohol, so they find it hypocritical to lecture their teen about alcohol consumption. Parents who are open about their own drinking, but explain the risks, have a better chance of getting through to their kids.
- Be the Excuse. When kids are put in a situation with their peers, it can sometimes be hard to say no. Let your teen know that you will take the blame when they are asked to drink, and when asked why they can’t drink, they can say they are not allowed by their parents.
- Build their Self Esteem. Peer pressure is one of the leading reasons teens decide to try drinking for the first time. It can be hard to say no when you are insecure and want other kids to think you are cool. Teens who have a strong self-esteem are 50% less likely to feel pressured into drinking than other teens with low self-esteem.
- Lock it Up. You may trust your teen, but why leave it up to them? If you keep alcohol in your house, be smart. Your teen may not drink, but their friends might. Lock up your alcohol and protect your teen and their friends from the temptation of an open bar.
Worried your teen is already abusing alcohol?
Watch for the warning signs. Talk to your teen. Express your concerns and try to become more involved in their activities. Set up boundaries and make sure your teen understands the rules. Follow up with consequences if they break the rules. If the alcohol consumption has gotten out of control and you are worried your teen is becoming addicted to alcohol, don’t wait. Seek professional help. Too many teens die each year from alcohol related incidents; don’t wait until it’s too late.
Find out more about the Teen Addiction Treatment Programs available here.