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A Parent’s Guide to Alcoholic Teenagers

The number of teenagers who are developing alcohol addictions is on the rise. It is possible for these young people to have only been drinking for a relatively short period of time, yet they have still managed to reach a stage where they have a serious problem. This is a very serious condition for a teenager to develop, and unless they are able to break away from their addiction, it could destroy their life.

Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism?

The line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism isn’t always clear. This means that it is easy for an individual to cross the line from substance abuse into addiction without even noticing. The main difference between these two conditions is that the person who is at the alcohol abuse stage has not yet developed a physical addiction. This means that it will be easier for them to get their life back under control. It also means that later on they may be able to drink alcohol socially. Once people have crossed the line into alcoholism though, the only real option for them is complete abstinence because they will never be able to drink safely again.

Why Do Teenagers Develop Alcohol Problems?

There are many reasons why a teenager might develop alcohol problems. We have listed some of these below.

  • Young people are very susceptible to peer pressure, and if their friends are abusing alcohol, they can feel pressured into doing the same.
  • Most teenagers might only intend to try alcohol once, but they like the effect so they begin drinking more often.
  • Some people are believed to be genetically predisposed to this type of problem.
  • Some teenagers have been victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and they can turn to alcohol to escape their pain.
  • Alcohol abuse can be made to look glamorous in the media.
  • Some teenagers may be dealing with the symptoms of mental illness conditions such as depression; they find that alcohol seems to make them feel better – this is called self-medication.
  • The teenage years can be very stressful and some young people will turn to alcohol because it seems to help them cope better.
  • The person may come from a family in which there is a history of alcohol or drug abuse. They therefore grow up with the understanding that such behaviour is normal.
  • There can be a strong drinking culture in some communities.

The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse for Teenagers

Teenagers who develop alcohol abuse problems are in a great deal of danger because:

  • it does not need to take long before the person is both physically and psychologically addicted
  • once the person becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs they will be caught in a downward spiral – they could lose everything unless they are able to stop
  • it will mean that this young person will be missing out on a normal experience of being a teenager
  • adolescence is a crucial time for physical and emotional development – alcohol abuse will interfere with normal development
  • alcohol can be very damaging for both the body and the mind
  • it will mean that young people will perform badly at school, having serious consequences for their future
  • there is a close relationship between teenage suicide and alcohol abuse
  • many young people will turn to crime in order to obtain money to buy alcohol
  • it can lead them into abusing illegal drugs
  • it will mean that they are more prone to accidents and getting into trouble.

How to Tell If a Teenager Is Developing an Alcohol Problem?

If a teenager is developing alcohol problems, there will usually be plenty of signs. These can include things like:

  • behaving secretly and become defensive if they are questioned about what they’ve been up to
  • appearing ill in the mornings with no apparent reason
  • alcohol is going missing from the home
  • money is going missing from the home
  • spending time with a new set of friends and not having time for their old friends
  • performing less well at school
  • strange odours in their bedroom
  • being very chatty and saying things that do not make much sense
  • becoming very argumentative
  • suddenly starting to eat mints all the time – this could mean that they are trying to hide the smell of alcohol
  • appearing a bit shaky in the morning – this can be a sign of alcohol withdrawal.

What Parents Can Do to Help Alcoholic or Alcohol Abusing Teenagers

Most parents will be rightly upset to find that their child has developed an alcohol problem. The temptation can be to just get really angry and make threats to convince this person to stop drinking. The problem with this type of approach is that it usually doesn’t work. It just puts the teenager on the defensive, making them work harder to hide their alcohol problem in the future. In order to help young people to break away from addiction it can be helpful to:

  • speak to them in a non-confrontational way to establish what they’ve been up to and why they’ve being doing it – this type of honesty is necessary to discover the seriousness of the problem
  • make contact with an organisation that can offer advice to parents who are dealing with teenagers abusing alcohol
  • arrange for an addiction therapist to help the child look at the reasons for their behaviour – together they will be able to develop a way out of the problem
  • find a fellowship group that can offer support to alcoholic teenagers and their family
  • enter rehab – these days there are inpatient facilities that cater solely for young people
  • search out online resources for advice and support.

The Prognosis for Alcoholic Teenagers

There are many examples of teenagers who were able to overcome serious alcohol problems and go on to live fulfilling and productive lives. If the young person is able to break away from their addiction it can actually make them stronger, and they will have gained an important life lesson. If teenagers fail to break away from addiction though, their prognosis will be much worse.

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