How to Help an Alcoholic Teen

In all too many cases, they wake up in the hospital after a car accident — or don’t wake up at all — and seriously injure unsuspecting passengers, people in other cars or pedestrians. Regardless of the causes, the sooner the problem is identified, the earlier a teen can begin treatment to address both the symptoms and the underlying causes of alcoholism. Rates
of drinking and alcohol-related problems are highest among White and American
Indian or Alaska Native youth, followed by Hispanic youth, African Americans,
and Asians. Parents and teachers can play a meaningful role in shaping youth’s attitudes toward drinking. Parents, in particular, can have either a positive or negative influence. The percentage of pure alcohol, expressed here as alcohol by volume (alc/vol), varies within and across beverage types.

  • Choose a time when your teen hasn’t been drinking and you’re both calm and focused—and turn off your phone to avoid distractions.
  • Parents and teachers can have a huge impact, negatively or positively, on a young person’s view of alcohol.
  • But pressure to fit in might make it hard to resist alcohol if it seems like everyone else is trying it.

Today, it is widely accepted that alcohol or drug misuse are not the results of one lone factor. Sarah Travis is a 15-year-old girl dealing with feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Her parents are divorced and she has minimal contact with her unemployed, alcoholic father, Jerry.

Warning Signs Of Teenage Alcoholism

Children of alcoholics (COAs) are between 4 and 10
times more likely to become alcoholics themselves than are children who have no
close relatives with alcoholism (26). COAs also are more likely to begin drinking
at a young age (27) and to progress to drinking problems more quickly (9). Due to inexperience with alcohol, generally lower aversion to risk, and susceptibility to peer pressure, teenagers have a substantially higher risk for binge drinking than most other age groups. Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages in under 2 hours for women or consuming 5 or more alcohol beverages in the same amount of time for men.

In addition, teens who are drinking may begin avoiding their parents, going straight to their rooms after school rather than spending time with the family. Other signs are more blatant, such as empty alcohol bottles hidden in their room. Moreover, if a teenager changes their friend group, this can be one of the signs of alcoholism.

Learn about alcohol addiction and substance abuse

However, parental efforts should be matched by genuine legislative and enforcement activity to reduce independent access to alcohol by children, and examination of costs per unit and bottle sizes to discourage large bottle purchases. While these measures are unlikely to eradicate the negative effects of alcohol on children, they may reduce them substantially while allowing children to prepare themselves for life in an adult environment dominated by this drug. Other studies have shown that alcohol use tends to increase with age during adolescence, with older teens more likely to drink and engage in heavy or binge drinking. One of the most distressing factors regarding brain development in teenagers who drink alcohol is that the changes the brain suffers are permanent. Heavy drinking while developing as a teen affects the functions of the brain that control their ability to absorb and apply information, form and recall memories, regulate emotions, and make calculated decisions.

However, for some teens, outpatient treatment or partial hospitalization programs may offer the help they need. The following community trials show how environmental
strategies can be useful in reducing underage drinking and related problems. Research shows that COAs may have subtle brain differences which could be markers
for developing later alcohol problems (28). For example, using high-tech brain-imaging
techniques, scientists have found that COAs have a distinctive sober house feature in one
brainwave pattern (called a P300 response) that could be a marker for later alcoholism
risk (29,30). Researchers also are investigating other brainwave differences in
COAs that may be present long before they begin to drink, including brainwave
activity recorded during sleep (31) as well as changes in brain structure (32)
and function (33). The consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone—regardless of age or drinking status.


Either directly or indirectly, we all feel the effects of the aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence, and deaths that can result from underage drinking. This is not simply a problem for some families—it is a nationwide concern. You have been redirected to because you entered a date below the legal drinking age in the U.S. Join us in starting a lifetime of conversations around alcohol responsibility – keep reading to learn more. I urge you not to just to a correlation between this decline and substance abuse; it can come from any number of causes including stress, a new environment, trouble in the home, or other reasons. However, as with the other signs on this list, early intervention could be what stands between your child and a path best left unfollowed.

Can a child be an alcoholic?

Many scientific studies, including research conducted among twins and children of alcoholics, have shown that genetic factors influence alcoholism. These findings show that children of alcoholics are about four times more likely than the general population to develop alcohol problems.

If someone drinks large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, they’re at risk for alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is exactly what it sounds like — the body has become poisoned by large amounts of alcohol. It also can cause extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, problems with breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, and even death. In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication.

Attempting to dive straight in to a discussion about drinking may be a quick way to trigger an unpleasant fight. A better tactic is to find an area of common ground, such as sports or movies. Once you’re able to peacefully discuss a common interest, it may be easier to get your teen talking about the more sensitive issue of alcohol use. Trying to talk to a teen about drinking when they’re watching their favorite show, texting with their friends, or in the midst of a heated argument with you about something else isn’t going to be productive.

These peers are often afraid to reach out for help in emergencies, because they are breaking the law and don’t want to deal with the consequences. In addition to these issues, adolescent drinking has been linked to developing an alcohol abuse problem that follows into adulthood. The highest risk group among teens is those who engage in binge drinking.

Risks of underage drinking

If your teen struggles with drinking, you may find that they’re not the same person they once were. It can be scary to discover that your teen drinks alcohol in any amount. You know the dangerous effects of alcohol on teens, so don’t ignore the situation if your teen shows signs of alcohol addiction. Talk about alcohol addiction with them and consider getting them professional help if they need it. You can speak to a recovery specialist about teen alcohol abuse treatment.

  • Teenagers often feel invincible—that nothing bad will ever happen to them—so preaching about the long-term health dangers of underage drinking may fail to discourage them from using alcohol.
  • Increasing the age at which people can legally purchase and drink alcohol
    has been the most successful intervention to date in reducing drinking and alcohol-related
    crashes among people under age 21 (61).
  • It can be alarming if teenagers abandon their usual activities and their regular circle of friends and peers.
  • And by working with their friends’ parents, you can share the responsibility of monitoring their behavior.

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