How Can You Recognize the Symptoms of Teen Alcohol Abuse?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is the most commonly used substance among teens in the United States. This could be because most have access to it in their homes from their parents, fake IDs, or the sheer availability of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

As a parent, it may be difficult to recognize the symptoms of teenage alcohol abuse, and you may be unaware of the dangers it can lead to. Educating yourself on the subject can help you protect your family and allow you to have honest conversations with your loved ones.

How Prevalent Is Underage Drinking in the U.S.?

Statistics from the CDC show that underage drinking is a viral problem. For example, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in 2017, high schoolers in the past 30 days had:

  • Drank some alcohol: 30%
  • Binge drank: 14%
  • Drove after drinking: 6%
  • Drove with someone who had been drinking: 17%

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2018 found that 19% of teens ages 12 to 20 drink alcohol. 12% admitted to drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. The Monitoring the Future Survey found in 2019 that 8% of eighth-graders and 30% of twelfth graders drank in the past 30 days. 4% of eighth-graders and 14% of twelfth graders binge drank in those 30 days.

According to studies done by the CDC, binge drinking has caused over 4,300 deaths in underage teens every year. This is because underage drinkers typically drink more during each drinking session than their adult counterparts. In fact, 119,000 of emergency room visits by underage teens in 2013 were for incidents related to alcohol.

Underage drinkers have been found to consume 11% of alcohol in the United States, with 90% of that consumption being binge drinking.

How Does Underage Drinking Affect the Lives of Teens?

There is a multitude of negative impacts that underage drinking has on teenagers’ lives. Many are related to school, development, health, and social relationships. This list is by no means exhaustive but gives a good insight into what can happen when teens drink heavily and irresponsibly.

  • Death from alcohol poisoning
  • Unprotected sexual activity
  • Memory problems
  • Abuse of other drugs
  • Physical and/or sexual assault
  • Alcohol-related incidents and injuries (car crash, fall, drowning, burning)
  • Physical problems and ailments (hangovers, alcohol-related illness)
  • Social problems (fighting, lack of participation, loss of friendships)
  • School problems (failing grades, higher absence)
  • Legal problems (arrests, hurting someone else while drunk)

Warning Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse

It is possible to spot the signs of alcoholism in your teen. Some risk factors may make them more likely to use alcohol, while others are simply environmental or choices made by the person.

  1. If alcoholism runs in the family, your teen may be more likely to abuse alcohol. This can impact your teen greatly and put them more at risk for alcoholism.
  2. If alcohol is readily available for your teen to get their hands on, this can also put them in a place to suffer from alcohol abuse. The temptation may cause them to try it and they may find the feeling enjoyable, causing them to drink more.
  3. Dual diagnoses can also put your child at risk. Alcohol can be used to alleviate symptoms of mental illness, putting your child is a vicious cycle of drinking and the discomfort of mental illness.
  4. The rate at which someone matures also contributes to possible alcohol abuse. If a teen matures quicker at a younger age, this could put them more at risk for alcohol abuse.
  5. Social factors can also influence alcohol use and abuse. Peer pressure, living conditions, and socioeconomic status can play major roles in your child using and abusing alcohol.

If any of these criteria fit your child, consider having an open and honest conversation with them concerning alcohol consumption.

Symptoms of Teenage Alcohol Abuse

On top of the warning signs, you should also pay attention to any physical symptoms your child may be displaying due to their alcohol use. These may include:

  • Behavioral problems at school
  • Failing grades
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Decreased interest in self-care
  • Issues with attention and memory
  • Changes in their friend group
  • Low energy and motivation
  • Newfound rebelliousness
  • Missing alcohol containers in the home (or diluted bottles)
  • Empty alcohol containers found in their room
  • Giddiness or silliness
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired motor functions

Why Do Teens Consume Alcohol?

One of the main reasons teens use alcohol is that it is readily available to them. Many are able to easily obtain it from friends or family members or have it available to them in their own house. Another major reason is peer pressure, which causes teens to make decisions based on the encouragement and pressure from peers. They may also just want to fit in with their friends who are drinking.

Alleviating symptoms of stress is also a common reason for underage alcohol consumption; stress can push them to enjoy alcohol. Some may also have grown up around those using alcohol and have learned the behavior from those individuals.

The best thing you can do for your child when you find out they are consuming alcohol underage is to educate yourself on teen alcoholism and ways to prevent and treat it. You can discuss the dangers of alcohol with your children frequently, and make sure you are drinking responsibly yourself. Teenage alcoholism is unfortunately a major national health crisis, but it can be minimized with proper education and open, honest communication between parents and their children. To learn more about teenage alcohol abuse and how to prevent it, contact Northstar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.