Signs of Teen Alcoholism

How do parents know if their teen is suffering from teen alcoholism? Alcohol is considered a drug. In fact, US teenagers use alcohol more often than any other recreational drug. According to Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD, nearly half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol monthly, and in the past year, 14% of teens report having been intoxicated at least once. One drink only per sitting isn't the limit for teens, reports Dryden-Edwards. Nearly 8% of teens who drink say they binge drink, consume at least five or more alcoholic drinks in a row. 

Teens who drink attempt to hide their drinking from their parents. The first clue is to watch for signs of secretive behavior. Lying, making excuses for where they've been, having alcohol on their breath or body, and secluding themselves from the family are all warning signs.

Other symptoms include mood swings, becoming abusive or excessively angry, sudden changes in friends, missing school and stealing. If you note these changes in your teen's behavior, you should not let them slide. Start by talking to your teen. Talk to other parents, school officials, your teen's doctor, and get help.

What kinds of help are available? For mild cases, in which teens have been experimenting with alcohol, the first step is parent intervention. This involves limiting the teen's freedom outside the home and access to alcohol inside the home. Enroll your child in alcohol education to gain awareness of the dangers. In addition, family counseling can be effective. For moderate cases, medical, individual and family counseling are advised.

Medical intervention may include certain drugs which minimize the craving for alcohol, or producing a negative effect on the body when it comes into contact with alcohol. But this is not enough to "cure" teen alcoholism. Medical intervention must be coupled with therapy and a program (such as the 12-step AA program) to have effectiveness.

In cases of extreme teen alcoholism, teen alcohol treatment may include a stay in a residential treatment program for intensive treatment.

Resources for help with teen alcoholism include:

  • Al-Anon-Alateen: 1 (888) 4AL-ANON
  • Alcoholics Anonymous World Services: (212) 870-3400
  • American Council on Alcoholism treatment referral line: (800) 527-5344
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving: (800) GET-MADD
  • National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: (800) NCA-CALL
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: (301) 443-3860
  • National Clearinghouse for Alcoholism and Drug Information: (800) 729-6686
  • National Resource Center: (866) 870-4979
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