Why Do Teens Drink Alcohol?
Alcohol and adolescence seem to go hand in hand, as research shows that 72% of teens have consumed alcohol by high school graduation. Most American teens have grown up surrounded by alcohol, and may view it as a rite of passage into adulthood.
For some teens, alcohol consumption takes place in party situations. These teens tend to drink to impress or fit in with their peers. For others, drinking is a private affair that’s done to alleviate emotional pain. There are a number of risk factors:
- Alcohol abuse in the home
- Permissive attitude among peers of early alcohol consumption
- Addiction history in a close genetic family member
- Early age of first drink
- Co-occurring mental health disorder
Even if your child has a combination of these risk factors, that does not automatically mean that they will end up becoming an alcoholic. It simply means that they are predisposed to alcoholism, and need to keep a closer watch than most people on their drinking behavior. On the flip side, a child may develop a substance use disorder during the teen years and beyond even without experiencing any of these risk factors.
Why Do Teens Binge Drink?
Binge drinking means drinking in excess. But how many drinks constitute binge drinking? For most adult men, binge drinking means consuming five or more drinks in two hours, and for women, it means four or more drinks in that time period. For teens — who generally weigh less than adults — that number is even lower, since their bodies process alcohol much more quickly, leading to a higher blood alcohol content (BAC).
Binge drinkers drink as much as they can with the express purpose of “getting hammered.” It’s this need to get drunk that separates teen bingers from other teen drinkers. Especially during high school and college, binge drinking is fairly commonplace. In fact, 21% of teens admit to binge drinking.
Excessive drinking can temporarily alleviate feelings of sadness and loneliness, since alcohol is capable of numbing emotions. Also, being drunk can help smooth a teen’s entry into a party situation that seems tense and unfamiliar. Teens growing up in a household of binge drinkers tend to model that behavior in their own lives. Their parents do it, so it seems normal to them. For teens who can’t stop binge drinking, treatment may be necessary.
Signs of Teenage Drinking
Aside from the obvious sign that is drunkenness, teens who drink may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Mood changes
- Lowered academic performance
- Poor school attendance
- Slurred speech
- Lack of involvement in former hobbies
If you notice these signs in your teen, open up clear lines of communication about drinking. Your child likely already knows that underage drinking isn’t allowed in your household, but you should still offer that reminder. In some circumstances, setting up consequences is an effective way to keep teens from drinking in the future, but you cannot keep an eye on them 24/7.
Sometimes teens cannot stop drinking, even if they want to. They might agree to curb their behavior, but fall victim to peer pressure if they’re offered alcohol when you’re not around. If your teen tries to quit drinking but just cannot kick the habit, they need more than heart-to-heart conversations and punishment. They may need a formal treatment program or a binge drinking support group.
Effects of Teenage Drinking
There are both short and long term effects of teenage drinking. Teens who start drinking early are more likely to suffer from alcoholism as adults. In fact, 90% of adults with addiction began using substances before age 18. Teenage drinking can have lifelong consequences.
Short term effects of alcohol on teenagers include:
- Physical or sexual assault
- Higher risk of suicide
- Death from alcohol poisoning
- Social problems
- Legal problems
- Poor academic performance
- Disruption of physical and mental development
Alcohol is a sedating drug that works by slowing down electrical impulses in the brain. If brain cells stay sedated for long periods of time, they become accustomed to working at a slow pace. When alcohol is removed and those cells begin to work faster, a person can experience withdrawal symptoms, some more severe than others. The more alcohol a person drinks, the more likely it is that they will struggle with a difficult withdrawal process.
At Next Generation Village, our alcohol addiction treatment programs begin with detox: a period of constant, close supervision. Teens are watched carefully as their bodies adjust to a lack of alcohol. That way, if any withdrawal symptoms appear, our medical staff can provide therapies that soothe distress. We strive to make detox and withdrawal as comfortable as possible.
Where to Get Help
If you are seeking addiction treatment for your teen, you can many choices, such as inpatient facilities, outpatient therapy and hospital-based programs. The best treatment setting for your teen depends upon multiple factors, such as:
- The type of drugs your teen has taken, as this determines whether your child is at risk for a difficult withdrawal
- Medical conditions
- Co-occurring disorders such as emotional, behavioral or mental health issues
- Willingness to change
- Risk of continued drug use
How You Can Help Your Child
As a parent, you may sometimes feel that you’re the last person that your teen looks to for guidance. On the contrary, you have a huge impact on your teenager, and can help them to make healthier choices during their teen years and beyond. Here are some tips to help your child avoid alcohol abuse:
- Institute a zero-tolerance policy for substance abuse. Make it clear that there is to be underage drinking in your house.
- Check in regularly. Every so often, check in with your child about their beliefs on alcohol abuse, whether or not they’ve experimented with drinking, and if they think the house rules are fair.
- Be a good role model. If you drink heavily, you are sending the message that binge drinking is okay.
- Don’t let kids drink at home. Some parents believe that kids are going to drink no matter what, so it’s better if the drinking happens under adult supervision. Unfortunately, this only demonstrates that rules can be broken in certain circumstances.
Teen Alcohol Treatment at Next Generation Village
It is difficult for families to handle teen drinking behavior, but the therapists at Next Generation Village are highly experienced in treating teen alcoholism. Our treatment team help teens learn alternate ways to deal with unpleasant emotions, and skills for living a fulfilling and sober life.
The most effective alcohol treatment for your teen will take into account the many factors driving your teen’s addiction. Here at Next Generation Village, we do just that, as we take a holistic approach to treating teen alcoholism. Get in touch with us today to learn about our unique and effective treatment methods.