What Is Teen Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug by teens in the United States and is a serious condition that can lead to the destruction of people’s quality of work, relationships, and other positive aspects of their lives. People who abuse alcohol drink in excess, often in response to other underlying mental or emotional conflicts they’re facing, and drink to avoid or become numb to those feelings. Unfortunately, rather than providing an escape from life’s problems, often alcohol abuse creates even more stress and difficulty in their lives, as people will behave in ways they would never behave, when sober.
One of the most serious risks of teen alcohol abuse is that people who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are five times more likely become addicted to, or abuse, alcohol.
What It Looks Like
One of the biggest problems of alcohol use among teens is that the majority of the time, teen drinking constitutes abuse, as teens statistically drink in the form of “binge” drinking, and to excess. Basically, teens tend to drink to get drunk, which automatically puts them at risk for abuse and addiction. Beyond the immediate legal consequences for a teen drinking under the legal age, there’s also a host of other relational, physical, mental, and behavioral risks at hand.
People who abuse alcohol will often gain such a dependence upon it that they put their own need and desire for alcohol above the responsibility they feel toward their friends and family. This often leads to considerable tension and strife in relationships with those closest to the person, as alcohol becomes a necessary part of their every day functioning. Causing strife in their relationships will often leave them, once sober, with guilt, regret, and the responsibility to rebuild what they’ve broken, adding more emotional angst to an already difficult battle.
Physical Well Being
Persistent alcohol abuse can also cause serious negative health effects, including: liver damage, internal bleeding, anemia, cancer, and a number of other serious health issues. It can also disrupt normal development of the body, brain, and endocrine system related to proper puberty and development. In connection with behavioral risks, people often put themselves in harm’s way when they’re abusing alcohol, including sexual and other physical risks.
Mental Well Being
It’s common for people who are feeling anxious or depressed to abuse alcohol as a form of self-medication, to become numb from what they’re experiencing. Unfortunately, drinking can often make symptoms of depression or anxiety more intense, and when taken in combination with medication, can have serious, unexpected effects. Alcohol can also lead to addiction and dependency extremely quickly, making it difficult for a person to function without it.
Alcohol abuse commonly puts teens into dangerous situations caused by the risky behavior that occurs while drinking. Teens often don’t generally have an awareness of how drunk they might be, which leads to unintentionally dangerous behaviors which lead to them harming themselves or others. Some of the most common accidents that occur as a result of teen drinking include, but are not limited to:
- Car accidents
- Physical accidents
- Unintentional/unplanned sexual activity
- Use of other drugs
Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Teen alcohol abuse treatment requires them to stop drinking. This can often be a complex, difficult step in and of itself, as people who abuse alcohol often don’t perceive it to be the problem it is, and/or don’t recognize the negative effects it creates. Because teen drinking is illegal, they might also often hide or deny their behavior.
Because alcohol abuse is often related with other environmental and behavioral patterns or habits, time away from a person’s every-day environment can be extremely helpful in making the initial steps toward recovery. Often people have an easier time recognizing their own behaviors, the consequences thereof, and the underlying reasons that cause them to abuse alcohol, when they have some space from their day-to-day responsibilities.
Group therapy and support groups are often very helpful resources for people who are struggling with alcohol abuse, especially for teenagers who are so dependent upon, and motivated by, their peer groups.
Therapists also work with a teen not only concerning their behaviors related to abusing alcohol, but also, the underlying stresses that may be leading them to drink. This is a crucial, powerful step in recovery, as teens can gain the insight into their own lives to learn healthier, more effective ways of dealing with difficulties.
In some cases of alcoholism, medication can also be a helpful resource, especially in helping people make initial steps away from drinking, toward abstinence and recovery.
What if I just drink for fun?
Unfortunately, the problem is most teens do just drink for fun… and then it often leads to other things. The statistics on accidents, car crashes, unwanted pregnancies, crime, and other consequences are not made up of teens who were drinking as a means of looking for trouble; but rather, what is much more likely is that they were teens who were drinking and it got out of hand, leading to terrible, unexpected occurrences. Therefore, you may think you’re just having fun, or that you have it under control, but if you’re drinking regularly underage, the bottom line is the numbers say you’re putting yourself at risk. And in order to recover, there’s a good chance you need help.
What if a teen I know is abusing alcohol, but won’t admit it?
This can be a challenge with people abusing alcohol, regardless of age. When it comes down to it, you might not be able to get the person you’re concerned about to admit, or agree with you, that he or she is in trouble. That being said, teens can often be extremely insistent about things they’re unsure about, and in certain cases, sometimes decisions have to be made in their best interest for them, before they might have the understanding to agree with that decision. A good starting place is always to try to have an honest, open conversation with the teen, and there’s a better chance of honesty if you can try to be supportive and non-judgmental.