Alcohol Abuse Treatment: How To Handle Teen Drinking

An estimated 10 million underage drinkers were reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2010. Although the rate of teen drinking has gone down over the past years, still there are millions of teenagers who are regular alcohol drinkers in the United States. Among them, 2 million are considered heavy drinkers.

This can be very alarming considering how it is likely that these teenagers are also engaged in other forms of substance abuse.

beer teen drinking

The Impact of Teen Drinking

Teens are likely to drink alcohol because of how their brain develops during that stage. They are still unable to control their urges, and the pleasure center of their brain matures quicker than the part of the brain responsible for proper decision-making. Their inability to fully understand the possible consequences of drinking leads them to get hooked on the substance at an early age.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Drinking alcohol is legal in almost all countries, but individuals need to adhere to the rules with regards to age, culture and place. However, some teens may have easier access to alcohol when their parents store a few bottles at home or when adult friends can easily purchase booze for them.

alcohol abuse signs

Here are some of the most common signs of alcohol abuse in teenagers that parents should know about:

  • Coming home late at night even during school days
  • Waking up with an unpleasant mood
  • Sleeping during class often
  • Grades declining
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Memory loss
  • Getting into accidents often
  • Rebellion
  • Low energy level
  • Change of group of friends
  • Problems concentrating
  • Coordination problem
  • Slurred speech

Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Teens see alcohol as just any kind of substance that are pretty normal in parties or any kind of gathering among friends, without them realizing that they are slowly getting hooked on the substance. It may start out as casual drinking, but then later turns into a habit to the point of getting into an actual dangerous situation.

The consequences of teen drinking can affect everyone. It has become a nationwide concern that leads to property damage, injuries and violence. Intoxicated teens can make impulsive decisions, thereby making them more prone to situations that may not only endanger their health, but can also lead to their early demise.

Assault and sexual activity

Being under the influence of alcohol makes a person feel less inhibited. Therefore, teens who drink heavily are more likely to be involved in sexual assaults and fights. It is also likely for these teens not to use any protection during sexual activity, which may lead to unplanned pregnancy and developing sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV/AIDS and genital herpes.

Brain damage

Earlier studies prove that heavy drinking in adolescents can impair normal brain function, which can be evident when they grow older. This causes learning and cognitive problems. Coordination, memory and motor skills are also likely to be affected.

Vehicular accidents

Car mishaps are the leading cause of death in teens. It has become a huge factor affecting both driver and passenger.

Involvement with other Illicit Substances

It is also likely that teen drinking can become a gateway to being addicted to other substances like marijuana, meth and other illegal substances.

Teen Drinking Statistics

Here are some alarming statistics on teen drinking:

  • At least 33% of teens by the age of 15 years old have had at least 1 drink.
  • At least 60% of teens by the age of 18 years old have had at least 1 drink.
  • It was reported in 2015 that 7.7 million teens aged 12-20 have ingested alcohol beyond a few sips in the past month.
  • Roughly 1.3 million teens were reported to engage in binge drinking for five or more days in the past month.
  • Prevalence of drinking by both boys and girls is similar, but boys binge more than girls.
  • Based from the data given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is the leading cause of teenage deaths each year. Out of 4,358 deaths, close to 1,600 deaths were caused by vehicular accidents linked to alcohol abuse.

Causes of Teen Drinking

causes of teen drinking and alcohol abuse

Adolescence is a life stage when people may feel stuck between crossroads. Teenagers may feel the need to be allowed more independence and yet the people around them see them as children who still need more time to mature. However, some teens fail to see that their parents are just guiding them to become better persons.

As innocent and as vulnerable as they are, some teens may be corrupted by others, thereby making them feel stronger to do things against their parents’ will.

Adolescence is the time when teens want to explore the world. They may want to try to do things that they see in adults thinking that they are already capable of doing them. Unfortunately, due to their anatomical framework still undergoing development, teens are unaware of the consequences that can follow.

Most teens would experiment with alcohol and drugs at some point in their early lives for different reasons.

Peer pressure

This may be the most common reason for teens to start getting hooked on substances like alcohol and drugs. They see their friends doing it, and they feel that it is necessary to do the same thing in order to conform or belong. They fear being rejected or bullied, and teens want to feel that they are part of a group that they can relate with.

Unfortunately, their means of having fun may no longer revolve about playing ball or hanging out at the mall. For some teens, being together may mean taking a few rounds of beer.


Teens don’t know as much as adults do, and this insufficiency in information may lead them to situations that could lead to trouble. Not knowing the effects of taking these substances can cause them harm.

Seeing other people do it, some teens would think that it is something that they are expected to do as well. Unaware of the consequences of how they would end up after, they may just one day find themselves locked out or mourning over a friend who has succumbed to an early death.

To feel like a grown-up

Teens seem to be in a hurry to get old and would no longer want to be treated like a kid. They want independence. They want to do whatever they want, and so they are drawn to certain ideas that make them feel like an adult. As a result, they get involved with drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and/or taking drugs.

Monkey see, Monkey do

Teens look up to their parents, Therefore, no matter how bad the actions that they see from their parents, they have a tendency to imitate. A child born from parents who are smokers or alcohol drinkers is more likely to become one themselves when he/she grows older.

Many teens have easier access to these substances because their parents keep a few bottles of beer or wine at home.


Teens often want to try to do something new and explore the world around them. Since teens are less likely to be supervised unlike when they were younger, they are often left alone when parents are at work. It is during these times when they are able to freely do their experimentation.


When people are left with nothing to do, the mind may harbor thoughts and lead to some unlikely situations. A restless teen can get himself into all kinds of trouble. He may ask his friends to come over and have a few drinks to cover up their boredom. Unfortunately, this can slowly lead to addiction.


Teens who may be going through some difficult times may resort to alcohol because they know that getting highly intoxicated can make them feel numb and temporarily forget all their problems.

Some shy teens would also want to fit in, and they may think that alcohol is the solution to their problems.

Sign of rebellion or aggression

Troubled teens may become hooked on either drugs or alcohol to show their parents that they are mature enough to do whatever pleases them. Nagging and overprotective parents may be unaware of how they are slowly pushing their teenagers into such situation.

Teens may not find themselves to be worthy of being listened to by their parents. As a result, instead of taking time to sit down and talk to their parents, they may rebel by using drugs or alcohol.

How to Handle Your Own Kids Who Abuse Alcohol

addressing teen drinking

It is important to talk to children all the time and establish that connection so that they feel free in saying whatever comes to mind and share their thoughts. This way, they can seek guidance from their parents anytime.

If you find out that your teen has alcohol problems, the first thing that you have to do is to find out the cause that lead to the addiction. Sometimes, teens feel that they are alone in this world and that opening up their feelings to their parents can be extremely difficult.

Moreover, showing anger may make your teen all the more become distant. Show compassion and let your teen kid feel that you will always be by his side no matter what happens. When he has finally opened up himself, let him understand the consequences of having this kind of situation. There may be a need for him to be admitted into a rehabilitation center to help him to completely recover from the addiction.

To say the least, all efforts should be made by the whole family. First and foremost, the family should make the teen feel that he is loved.

All signs of alcohol should be eliminated from the house. This also includes the parents having to refrain from taking alcohol at home.

Treatment of Alcohol Abuse

If you suspect teen drinking in your children, immediately send them to a health professional for proper assessment. Should the health professional find your child to be positive for alcohol abuse, your teen may be requested to undergo therapy for a few weeks to a couple of months until he/she completely recovers.

Therapy would include completely taking out alcohol from his/her system and to have a psychological evaluation. This will help your teen face the problem that has caused him/her to get into the said addiction. Hopefully the issue can be resolved in a few months without any recurrence.

It is also a great help to make your teen join support groups to help him to realize that what has happened can also happen to other teens, and that getting back to their old life is always possible.

What Else Can We Do To Prevent Teen Drinking?

Teen drinking is something that can be prevented. It will need the help of both the government, society and families to make this possible. One possible way is to increase the cost of alcohol and maintain the minimum drinking age at 21. There should also be zero-tolerance policy when it comes to driving after any amount of alcohol. This would ensure a lesser possibility of having car accidents.

Schools should always provide a program that will let the students be informed of the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Having a clear knowledge of these substances would make them aware of the dangers, and avoid alcohol intake at all costs.

The most important action is for parents to establish a good and healthy relationship with their children so that they may avoid hiding things from their parents. Parents should always provide quality time for their family. No matter how much the children have all grown up, guiding them will always be important.


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