It’s important to be able to recognize the warning signs that your teen is drinking alcohol says Serenity at Summit, a NJ alcohol detox treatment center.
Suspecting that your teenager may be drinking alcohol is certain to be disturbing to parents, and rightfully so. Early age alcohol use is dangerous, even deadly in some cases, and it is widespread – affecting teenagers and younger children from all backgrounds, reports Serenity at Summit a New Jersey alcohol detox treatment center. Young people who drink alcohol are more likely to be involved in car accidents, to be victims of violent crimes, and to suffer from depression and anxiety. Underage drinkers also have a better chance of being involved in violent behaviors and crimes, attempting suicide, engaging in unprotected sex or risky sex practices, and becoming addicted to alcohol.
Statistics show that girls are as likely as boys to drink when they are young, and more than half of kids aged 12 to 20 years old have tried alcohol. The average age that girls have their first drink is 13, and for boys it’s 11. With statistics like these, it is easy to see why parents are concerned with teenage alcohol use.
So, how do you know if your teenager (or younger child) is using alcohol? There are some signs to look for that fall under three categories: physical, behavioral, and psychological.
Physical Signs Your Teen is Using Alcohol
- Bloodshot eyes
- Eating more or less than usual
- Insomnia or sleeping significantly more than usual
- Shaking or tremors
- Deteriorating grooming, hygiene, or physical appearance
- Difficulty speaking clearly or slurring speech
- Problems with motor skills or coordination
- Unexplained injuries or bruising
- Alcohol odors on breath or clothing
- Overuse of mouthwash, breath mints, or gum
- Finding hidden alcohol with your teen’s belongings
- Missing or watered down alcohol
Behavioral Signs Your Teen is Using Alcohol
- Poor attendance or tardiness at school
- Suffering grades
- Discipline problems at school or with law enforcement
- More arguments or fights
- Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
- Missing money or asking for money more often
- Being withdrawn or isolating
- Increase in secretive or suspicious behaviors
- Secretive about new friends and activities
- Locking doors
- No eye contact
- Change in group of friends or favorite places to hangout
- Increase in using eye drops
Psychological Signs Your Teen is Using Alcohol
- Unexplained or confusing differences in personality or attitude
- Sudden mood swings
- Irritability, aggression, or angry outbursts
- Laughing at nothing in particular
- Unusual hyperactivity or excessive energy
- Laziness and lacking motivation
- Inability to focus or appearing lethargic
- Seeming fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid
Obviously, some of the signs above may just be a teenager being a teenager; it’s the nature of adolescence. But, if you notice several of the signs, you may want to be on the lookout for more. The consequences of teens drinking, especially if they do it routinely, can be severe and life-long, so ignoring the signs can have a devastating effect.
The Risks of Teenage Drinking
The dangers of teenage drinking are not limited to the ones listed at the beginning of this post. There are a number of reports that show underage drinking can have long-term effects as well. The human brain is still developing until the mid-20s, and heavy drinking before that time can cause various problems. Drinking alcohol while the brain is still developing can damage brain growth and it is irreversible. And it doesn’t take a significant amount of drinking to see that result; young people who drink half as much as adults whose brains have fully developed can have the same negative effects.
Teens who drink are more likely to suffer from blackouts, loss of short and long-term memory, and alcohol poisoning than adults. All parts of the growing brain are affected negatively by alcohol, with memory being the most impacted. Additionally, a study done at the University of California, San Diego found that teens that drink routinely typically have damaged nerve tissue when compared to teens who don’t. It is believed that this can negatively affect boys’ attention spans and girls’ ability to understand and process visual information.
Because the brain (specifically, the serotonin regulation, which dictates balance and impulsiveness) becomes tolerant of the use of alcohol, individuals who begin using alcohol at a young age are likely to develop full-blown alcoholism at some time in their lives. In fact, according to another study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine of over 43,000 adults, 47% of those who started drinking at age 15 or younger became addicted to alcohol during their lifetimes, compared to only 9% of those who didn’t drink until at least 21 years of age. And, teenage drinkers are more likely to become susceptible to chronic, relapsing alcoholism at much younger ages than adults who abuse alcohol.
Getting Help for a Teenage Drinker
Most parents of teenage drinkers will agree that they found it hard to believe that their child was drinking. They didn’t see the warning signs, and it took something serious (like an accident or arrest) or someone else telling them to realize that there was a problem. It’s a shocking and upsetting realization and parents will often blame themselves or their teenager. It’s important to try not to assign blame, but instead to work on getting your teen help and on the road to recovery.
If you are seeking help for your teen, and you don’t know where to begin, you can talk to your child’s doctor, school guidance counselor or teacher, or your clergy. Your medical insurance company can also help you find behavior health professionals to assist you.
At Serenity at Summit, we can also answer your questions about your teenager and drinking, and help you decide which course of action is best for you and your child. If you suspect your teen is drinking, don’t delay in contacting us for guidance. The earlier you intervene on their drinking, the better.