Recognizing the Signs of Teenage Alcoholism
Although addiction to alcohol is often thought of as an adult issue, teenage alcoholism is a very real and common problem. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance globally, including by 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 the problem worsens 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 cite reasons such as:
- Thinking it was cool
- Wanting to fit in
- Seeing parents drink
- Wanting to feel more comfortable around friends
- Proving one’s self to others
- Feeling pressured
- Making friends and feeling accepted
- 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 with increased frequency
- 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 of binge drinking than most other age groups. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages in under two hours for women or consuming 5 or more alcohol beverages in under two hours 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, 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, potentially negatively impacting one’s future. Many young adults are learning to drive and learning how to socialize, and 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 crash
- 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
- And many more negative impacts
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 professional today. Professionals can guide parents and concerned teens to the right facility with adolescent treatment programs and cutting-edge therapies.
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