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Recognizing The Signs Of Teenage Alcoholism
Because the drinking age in the US is 21, alcoholism is often thought to be an adult issue. Despite this, teenage alcoholism is a very real and common problem. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance globally, this includes individuals under the age of 21. Over half of Americans between 12 and 20 years old have experimented with alcohol, and 1 in 5 teenagers become heavy drinkers. In 2010, there were 189,000 visits to emergency rooms as a result of underaged alcohol-related injuries.
10% of eighth graders report drinking at some point, and prevalence of alcohol increases with age. 33% of 15-year olds have tried at least one drink, and 35% of 12th graders have indulged in alcohol within the last 30 days.
Teens who drink underage may do because they:
- Think its cool.
- Want to fit in.
- See parents drink.
- Want to feel more comfortable around friends.
- Want to prove themselves to their peers.
- Feel pressured.
- Want to make friends and feel accepted.
- Are battling anxiety or depression.
In addition to the many negative health impacts that are caused directly by drinking, young drinkers are especially vulnerable to fatalities related to alcohol abuse. According to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 5,000 people 21 and under die from alcohol-related injuries, including homicide and suicide, every year, and an additional 600,000 students were injured due to alcohol abuse.
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Warning Signs of Teenage Alcoholism
Common warning signs of teenage alcoholism include:
- Drinking alone or in isolation.
- Hanging out with friends who drink.
- Reckless behavior.
- Drinking more often.
- Drinking increasing amounts at one sitting.
- Making excuses for alcoholism.
- Extreme changes in behavior.
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
- Teenage Binge Drinking.
Due to inexperience with alcohol, generally lower aversion to risk, and susceptibility to peer pressure, teenagers have a substantially higher risk for binge drinking than most other age groups. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages in under 2 hours for women or consuming 5 or more alcohol beverages in the same amount of time for men. Binge drinking impacts the body, creating uncomfortable symptoms like vomiting, hangovers, headaches, and low energy. Sadly, 45% of 9th graders, 50% of 10th graders, 58% of 11th graders and 65% of 12th graders admit to binge drinking at least once.
While, binge drinking does not necessarily make you an alcoholic, it is one of the primary contributing factors to teenage alcoholism. Binge drinking increases one’s alcohol tolerance. Once a high tolerance for alcohol is achieved, young drinkers can easily find themselves experiencing an alcohol use disorder (AUD), either while still underage or in their later years.
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Risks of Teenage Drinking
Alcohol use puts teenagers at risk of many different consequences. Drinking large amounts of alcohol while developing one’s identity can stunt personal growth and make it very difficult to successfully juggle school and home responsibilities. This can potentially negatively impact a teen’s future. Many young adults are learning to drive and learning how to socialize. When alcohol becomes part of these experiences, it can greatly warp the teen’s perception of life and their development. Teens who drink have a higher chance of:
- Impairing their memory.
- Experiencing mood swings.
- Suffering from alcohol poisoning.
- Damaging property.
- Being involved in a car accident.
- Damaging bodily organs.
- Exhibiting poor academic performance.
- Experimenting with other addictive substances.
- Becoming involved in a sexual assault.
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior.
- Engaging in violence.
- Attempting or falling victim to suicide.
- Getting arrested.
How To Prevent Teenage Alcoholism
Parents and teachers can have a huge impact, negatively or positively, on a young person’s view of alcohol. Having open, honest lines of communication can play a huge role preventing underage alcoholism. Parents can talk with their children about the dangers of drinking at a young age. If parents chose to drink in front of their child, they should drink responsibly and set an example for healthy drinking habits. Making sure alcohol is not easily accessible can also help to avoid alcohol problems in teens. Most importably, playing an active role in child’s life by knowing their friends, participating in healthy and fun family activities, and having conversations about life in general can limit the risk for teenage alcoholism.
Treating Teenage Alcoholism
Underage drinking can expose teens to a litany of consequences, but there is hope. If your child shows signs of alcoholism, or changes in behavior due to increasing alcohol abuse, contact a treatment provider today. Providers can guide parents and concerned teens to the right facility with adolescent treatment programs and cutting-edge therapies.
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