Alcoholism in Teens and Its Risks
Though teens aren’t legally allowed to drink alcohol in the U.S., that doesn’t stop many adolescents from trying their first sip for one reason or another and not being able to put the bottle down after that.
Alcohol is the most pervasive drug in the world, and as such it infects all parts of our society including our children. Whether teens are exposed to alcohol through their parents or from friends at school, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that unless a teen is living on a deserted island with their family, they will be exposed to alcohol. In light of this, it is the responsibility of those who want a brighter future to understand the dangers of teenage alcoholism, the signs of it, and how to help be part of the solution.
Signs of Teenage Alcoholism
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance around the world. Though there are preventative measures in place to prevent teens from abusing alcohol, such as drinking age limits, there is still more work to be done.
If your personal experience doesn’t confirm this, these statistics will help bring the reality to light. Over half of American teens between the ages of 12 and 19 have had more than one drink. While one drink might sound harmless, of that percentage, 1 out of every 5 of those teenagers either will become or already are heavy drinkers.
Recognizing the reasons for teenage alcoholism will also help you prevent it. Teens typically drink because of many of the same reasons that adults drink, but since they are younger and don’t have fully formed logic centers of the brain, the risk/reward of it all may not be correctly evaluated.
Some of the reasons that teenagers drink are:
- They want to be cool
- Their friends are drinking
- They see their parents drinking
- They feel as though they need to prove themselves
- Peer pressure
- They understand the effects and self medicate to treat depression or anxiety
Unsurprisingly, these reasons are all reasons that an adult might pick up the bottle as well. Though the motives for one’s alcoholism may not change, that doesn’t change the fact that these motives still must be managed and could be eliminated to some degree.
Along with all of the other negative health effects that come with chronic and binge drinking, teens are also more at risk for typical fatal drinking accidents. Every year, over 4,000 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related incidents, including suicide and homicide. On top of that, more than 500,000 people under the age of 21 are injured from alcohol-related incidents.
Teenagers having a strong support system to be there for them when they start drinking or when they want to stop is critical. Being the family member that’s there for them is a great opportunity for you to help stop them from giving their lives to alcohol as a consequence. Just knowing the signs and what can cause someone to pick up drinking can be the difference when it matters. You can make a difference in someone’s life.
What to Look for Regarding Teenage Alcoholism
Teenage alcoholism can be tricky to identify, though. Becoming adept in seeing the signs early and learning what to do once you’ve seen those signs is critical if you suspect your child or someone that you love is slipping to early alcoholism.
If you catch this teen doing any of the following, it may be a good idea to have a serious conversation with them about their behavior and what could be the cause for such behavior. These triggers include:
- Drinking alone
- Spending more time with friends who presumably drink
- Unsafe behavior
- Drinking more than usual
- Mood swings
- Excusing other’s alcoholism
- Binge drinking
- Separating from friends or family
Teenagers might think they have everything figured out, and while it’s healthy for them to make mistakes as they grow up, these are some mistakes that are just not worth making. The cost is too great. Teens more commonly fall to peer pressure and other forms of pressure, they generally do not have amazing self-control and do not know when to stop their drinking, They often are not as risk-averse as they should be and they often do not take the situations that they are placed in as seriously as they should.
Of course, there are exceptions to this, but it should be recognized that teens tend to make these kinds of behaviors regular, and those that drink already seem to make these kinds of mistakes rather commonly.
Binge drinking is a major problem with teen alcoholism and should be mentioned here. In a shocking school survey recently done, 45% of 9th graders admitted to binge drinking at least once. This number steadily increases over the years of high school – 50% of 10th graders admit to binge drinking, 58% of 11th graders and 65% of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking at one point that year.
Binge drinking is commonly defined as drinking 4 or more alcoholic drinks in under 2 hours for women and consuming 5 alcoholic drinks in 2 hours for men. This definition is meant for adults, as teens are generally not as tolerant to alcohol as some adults are.
Binge drinking does not equal alcoholism, but it can be an easy stepping stone to it. If you see someone that you love participating in regular binge drinking, take the time to sit down with them and have a heartfelt conversation about their health and what or who is encouraging them to do this.
Risks of Teenage Drinking
The risks of teenage drinking are expansive. Recent studies have shown that the human brain doesn’t fully develop its logical reasoning until the age of 25. This study found that adults think differently than teenagers, and will make significantly different decisions given the same information for widely different reasons. Binge drinking or alcoholism at any point in one’s life is detrimental to their health, however, it is even more damaging to a brain that is still developing.
Teens who drink might experience these side effects while drinking or because of it:
- Failing memory
- Mood swings
- Alcohol-related accidents
Again, these seem like rather normal effects of drinking. However, these issues showing up in one’s teen years are detrimental to their development.
How to Deal with Teenage Drinking
Teenage drinking must be addressed in two ways: preventative measures and treatment. When it comes to preventative measures, having a stable home and a support system in place is huge for those with developing minds. A strong role model in their life that a student can go to with their struggles and understand life with will seriously reduce the risk of teenage alcoholism. Having a parent or teacher in their life that is willing to sit down with a struggling teen and talk to them about not only the dangers of alcohol but get to the heart of why they are drinking will be a significant and formative time in their lives.
When it comes to treatment, the remedies are very close to the same as when an adult gets addicted to alcohol. As situations with underage kids are more complicated than those of adults, the best advice is to contact your local rehabilitation center and see what they suggest.
Regardless of the above, if you or a loved one is beginning to struggle with alcohol abuse, reach out to us at ecosoberhouse.com today. We have the tools and the ability to help you where you are at or get you started on your journey to sobriety.