What Parents Should Know About Alcohol Use

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, almost 80 percent of high school students have tried alcohol. Next to marijuana, alcohol is the most widely used drug by youths ages 12 to 17. Teens drink for a variety of reasons — out of curiosity, to feel good, to reduce stress, to fit in — but whatever the reason is, drinking at an early age can lead to serious consequences now and later in life. By learning what parents should know about teen alcohol use, you can help keep your child safe from the immediate consequences and the long-term risks of alcohol use.

What are some signs my child is abusing alcohol?

Besides the usual signs of intoxication, some teens will exhibit the following signs of alcohol abuse:

* Breaking curfew
* Lying or making excuses
* Hiding out in their room
* Becoming verbally or physically abusive toward others
* Mood swings
* Stealing
* Poor hygiene
* Frequently feeling ill
* Changes in sleeping patterns
* Changes in friends

What are some of the dangers of teens and alcohol use?

Alcohol use can lead to many consequences, including health problems, social problems and alcohol-related problems such as injuries, drunk driving, violence, poor decision making and poor performance in school. Long-term abuse of alcohol can result in an increased risk of liver and heart disease and some cancers, and greatly increases the chances of developing alcoholism.

Most alcohol-related problems for teens occur due to intoxication. These dangers include:

* Having unprotected sex, which leads to a higher risk of STDs and teen pregnancy
* Being sexually assaulted
* Being the victim of physical or verbal abuse, or being violent themselves
* Alcohol poisoning
* Injury trying to do tasks while drunk
* Getting in trouble with the law
* Harming friendships or family relationships

What are some facts and statistics on teens and alcohol use?

* Nearly 75 percent of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school.
* Over 40 percent of students have consumed alcohol by the 8th grade.
* Adults who used alcohol for the first time before the age of 21 are more likely to be classified with alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who had their first drink after the age of 21.
* In 2005, 28 percent of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in car crashes had been drinking.
* In 2005, close to 60 percent of youths ages 12 to 17 reported they talked to at least one of their parents about the dangers of drug, tobacco or alcohol use in the past year.
* Episodes of major depression among 12- to 17-year-olds is associated with a higher prevalence of illicit drug or alcohol dependence or abuse.

What can I do to prevent alcohol use in my teen?

* Talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol use, but don’t just talk the talk. Lead by example. Explain the risks and focus on the immediate harmful effects of intoxication listed above.

* Hide or lock up any alcohol you have in the house. If your teen has a problem with alcohol, keep it out of the house period.

* Don’t condone drinking by allowing your teen to drink at home, even if you think it’s a safer environment. Taking a “she’s going to drink anyways” attitude sets your teen up for failure and sends conflicting messages.

* Take action if you see any signs of abuse or sense that something is wrong. Don’t wait or the abuse could turn into an addiction.

How do I choose a teen alcohol rehab?

There are many different types of teen alcohol rehabs to choose from. When deciding, you should focus on which types of treatment they offer, staff credentials, if they have the proper licensing, what types of aftercare programs they offer to prevent relapse. You’ll want to decide if your teen needs residential or out-patient rehab, assisted detox, or treatment for a dual diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder. Talking to a medical doctor about your teen’s symptoms can help you determine which type of treatment you should seek.