Although the problem of underage drinking is getting better, it continues to be an issue for many teens around the country. One of the main problems is that drinking is so easily accepted. Drinking is what teens do – at parties, bars, and clubs. When they go out, you can expect that there’s going to be alcohol. It seems to be a given for teens at a party.
But what the commercials for beers and other teens won’t tell you is that drinking can cause significant problems. One of the most dangerous is that it can lead to addiction. Teen alcohol addiction has taken many lives because of alcohol-related car accidents, alcohol poisoning, and fights or physical violence. There is very little information provided about the dangers of drinking, including the risk of addiction.
Because of this drinking among American teens continues. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 9 million children and teens (between the ages of 12 and 20) reported that they drank alcohol in the previous month. This group accounts for about 25% of the all those under the age of 20 in the United States.
Typically, teens and young adults do not drink as often as adults, but they do drink more heavily in one sitting. For instance, teens and young adults tend to binge drink, having as many as five or more drinks on one occasion. However, the good news is that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that there was a drop in the amount of youth who were binge drinking between 2002 and 2012. Yet, the number of teens who continue to binge drink remains high – almost 6 million youth between the ages of 12 and 20 reported to binge drink and 1.7 million youth reported that they drink heavily.
A teen can tell that they are drinking too much if he or she is drinking to the point of ignoring other areas of life. For instance, teens might drink to the point of destroying relationships, their academic career, and the health of their body. The following are signs that a teen may be drinking too much or may be experiencing teen alcohol addiction:
- 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
- Withdrawal from family – spending more time alone away from family members and less communication.
- Loss of interest in previous hobbies/activities
- 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.
- Running away
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or you know a teen who is having these challenges, it’s a good idea to get help. Contact a mental health professional at your middle or high school, in the community, or by searching for one online. There are often therapists, drug counselors, and psychologists who specialize in working with teens, and even those who specialize in working with teen addiction.
It’s important to know that if you or someone you know is experiencing many of the above symptoms, getting help is essential. Addiction requires professional help in order to be adequately.