Physical, Social, and Emotional Signs Pointing to Teen Alcohol Abuse

Drinking and being a teen are practically synonymous for many adolescents. If you’re a teenager, you’re going to either drink or use a substance of some form. For many teens, when the weekend rolls around, it’s time to go out with friends. No matter what they do together, there’s a very high probability that alcohol will be involved. There is often an excessive amount of drinking that happens among adolescents, which can bring on severe health concerns.


Although, alcohol is not the drug of choice for all teens, it is for a large number of teens, especially if drinking is accepted by parents. And even if alcohol is not accepted by parents, alcohol is socially sanctioned, and that can give teens enough permission to drink. Sadly, drinking for some teens might continue to get more and more intense, creating an abusive relationship with alcohol, meaning that the drinking is becoming dangerous for that teen and perhaps for those around him or her as well.


If you’re a parent of a teen who you suspect is drinking too much, here are some signs to look for:

Physical Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Red/blood shot eyes
  • Persistent cough
  • Increased fatigue and/or sleep problems
  • Changes in weight (increase or decrease)
  • Unexplained injuries (could be caused by accidents that occur while drinking)
  • Frequent headaches, nausea, sensitivity to sound, especially in the morning due to hangover
  • Other drug use, including cigarette smoking
  • Slurred speech or an inability to communicate effectively
  • Lack of concentration
  • Blackouts or an inability to account for specific periods of time


Social/Emotional Warning Signs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Withdrawal from family – spending more time alone away from family members and less communication.
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies/activities
  • Depression
  • Mood Swings – including irritability, quick to anger and overly defensive
  • Change in the choice of friends/peer group – not introducing new friends to you
  • Problems at school, such as falling grades, complaints from teachers/staff, reports of cutting class and absences.
  • Problems with the law.
  • Goes out with friends a lot or attends many parties.
  • Secretive behavior, such as hiding things from you, locking bedroom door, not telling you who their friends are or where they are going.
  • Lying
  • Running away


The long-term effects of alcoholism can include the psychological effects of an addiction as well. Heavy alcohol consumption not only affects the health of the body; it also affects the stability of the mind. Approximately, 10%-15% of those with alcoholism will attempt to take their life. Those adolescents who are successful in their suicide attempt tend to have positive alcohol levels in their blood stream.


Of course, other dangers of heavy drinking include risky behavior, such as sexual activity and the risk of pregnancy. There is also the danger of developing an addiction, a chemical dependency to alcohol. Sadly, many teens don’t see anything wrong with drinking, which increases their probability of alcohol abuse and the risks mentioned above.


Although your teen’s drinking might require professional help, you might begin to ask about how they feel when they’re drinking along with some of the consequences they experience. Parents might simply and safely explore with their teens all the pros (such as having fun) and the cons (waking up with a hangover) to drinking. Exploring this together might help a teen to see the harm that drinking can bring. Of course, parents might choose to encourage their teens to engage in therapy as a means to support sobriety in their children. If binge drinking in teens becomes too severe, an inpatient treatment facility might be a necessary option. Whatever option you choose, it’s always best to speak to a mental health professional regarding the best treatment for teen alcohol abuse.