As a parent, you only want the best for your children. You love them, you raise them, and try to give them the tools they need to make responsible, healthy decisions. But, you can’t control everything.
If you are afraid that your teen has started drinking or fear that he or she has already developed an addiction to alcohol, you can help your teen onto the road of recovery.
Signs and Symptoms
If you suspect that your teen is drinking, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of being drunk as well as the signs of alcoholism.
Recognizing Alcoholism When Your Teen Is Drunk
Watch for the following indicators that your teen is drunk:
- Slower reflexes and reaction times
- Difficulty forming coherent sentences
- Slurred speech
- Lowered inhibitions
- Smell of alcohol on breath or clothes
Teenagers tend to drink less often than adults, but they often drink more at a time even though they typically have a lower alcohol tolerance. This can lead to more serious symptoms. If your teenager exhibits any of these symptoms, bring him or her to the hospital immediately to avoid alcohol poisoning:
- Uncontrolled urination and defecation
- Difficulty breathing
- Passing out
Recognizing Alcoholism When Your Teen Is Sober
Your child may go to great lengths to avoid you after he or she has been drinking. You might never see your teen drunk. However, you can still find signs and symptoms of alcohol use or addiction.
If your child is drinking, you might notice changes like:
- Increased lying
- Breaking curfew
- A change in sleeping patterns (especially sleeping late to deal with hangovers)
- Verbal or physical abuse
- Making suspicious excuses about tardiness or abnormal behavior
- A new group of friends or a sudden abandonment of long-term friends
- Frequent mood swings
- Greater demand for privacy
- A large shift in eating habits and/or weight
Consequences and Effects
Not only is underage drinking illegal, but it can come with dire consequences as well. From alcohol poisoning to drunk driving accidents to stunted brain development, the effects can be severe. Talk to your teens about the dangers of teen drinking.
Long-Term Effects of Teenage Drinking
The long-term effects of alcohol are far more serious for teenage drinkers than adults. Simply put, the brains and bodies of teenagers are not properly prepared for alcohol consumption.
Teenagers tend to drink less often than adults, but when they do drink, they typically drink more in one sitting. This can wreak havoc on a developing brain.
Talk to your teen about these serious, long-term effects of teenage drinking:
- Liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver
- Loss of brain cells
- Loss of brain cells
- Intestinal and stomach ulcers
- Alcoholism, or a dependence on alcohol
- Disruption of normal brain development
Immediate Dangers of Teenage Drinking
It’s easy for your teen to dismiss long-term effects when it seems like nothing bad is happening right now. Talk to your teen about the immediate effects of drinking and the potential life-threatening consequences.
Immediate effects from drinking include:
- Slower reflexes and reaction time
- Slower brain activity
- Reduced judgment abilities
- Poor vision
- Reduced coordination
These effects, on their own do not seem to pose any permanent danger. However, when these effects are coupled with everyday activities, like walking or driving, the situation becomes more dangerous.
Teenagers are less likely to have a designated driver and/or money for or access to a cab. Teenagers are also less likely to realize they are too impaired to drive. When you combine poor vision with slow reflexes, reduced coordination, and slower reaction time, driving becomes exceptionally difficult.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Around ¼ of those car crashes involved an underage, drunk driver. This is why you need to talk to your teen about underage drinking. Not only do drunk teens pose a serious danger to themselves, but they run the risk of harming and even killing others as well.
The reduced judgment capacity can lead to bad decisions or the inability to make decisions. As a teen’s decision-making skills are lowered, it can lead to unprotected sex, which can result in teen pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
Teenagers also put themselves in danger of alcohol poisoning. Due to their tendency to binge drink and their smaller size, their blood alcohol levels can reach dangerous levels that can cause their brain to lose control of normal functions. As a result, they might stop breathing, fall into a coma, or choke on their own vomit, which can, in turn, lead to death.
Finding a Solution
Throughout the process it is important to not blame yourself but to focus on helping your teen. If you are worried about your teenager’s alcohol consumption and fear that he or she might be addicted, a rehabilitation center or program for more help. You do not have to do this all on your own. Professionals can help you get your teenager on the road to recovery.