Alcohol abuse among teens is a very common problem. In fact, almost 80 percent of high school students report drinking alcohol and over 40 percent of students report trying alcohol by the eighth grade. Despite how common it is, teen alcohol abuse is not something that should be brushed aside as a fact of growing up. The effects of alcohol abuse on teens can lead to serious consequences now and later in life, including health problems, social problems, permanent damage and problems with alcoholism well into adulthood.
Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse
In addition to the usual signs of intoxication, teens who abuse alcohol will exhibit some of the following signs:
* Lying or making excuses
* Breaking curfew
* Hiding in their room
* Becoming verbally or physically abusive toward others
* Mood swings
* Poor hygiene
* Frequently feeling ill
* Changes in sleeping patterns
* Changes in friends
Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Teens
Teenagers who abuse alcohol increase their risk of negative health effects because their organs, brain and mental capabilities are still growing. Some of the most notable negative effects of alcohol abuse on teens are:
* Emotional problems. Alcohol abuse can cause or mask emotional problems such as anxiety or depression. It can also increase the severity of these emotional problems. Studies show that eighth-grade girls who drink heavily are three times more likely to attempt suicide than girls in their grade who don’t drink, and teenage girls aged 12-16 who drink are four times more likely than their non-drinking peers to suffer from depression.
* Behavioral problems. Teen drinkers have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 39 percent of teenage drinkers exhibit serious behavioral problems and 31 percent suffer extreme levels of psychological distress. Regular alcohol consumption is also associated with higher levels of attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and aggressiveness.
* Addiction and dependence. Studies prove that the younger a person is when they start drinking the more likely they are to develop a problem with alcohol. In fact, people who reported drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than those who started drinking later in life.
* Risky sex. Teens that drink are more likely to have unprotected sex, have sex with a stranger, or engage in various forms of sexual activity. This leads to higher risks of STDs, teen pregnancy and sexual assault.
* Learning problems. Teens that binge drink perform worse in school, are more likely to fall behind, and have higher drop-out rates. Research shows that teen drinkers score worse than their non-drinking peers on vocabulary, visual-spatial and memory tests.
* Brain damage. Heavy drinking among teens over many years can result in serious mental disorders or permanent, irreversible damage to the brain or nervous system. According to the American Medical Association, scientific evidence suggests that even modest alcohol consumption in adolescence can result in permanent brain damage.
* Car accidents. Alcohol-related traffic accidents are a major cause of death among teens. A recent study showed that 28 percent of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in car crashes had been drinking.
* Gateway drug. Alcohol is often a gateway drug to other illicit substances. Teens that drink are more likely than non-drinking teens to use other drugs like marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy or heroin.
Teen Alcohol Rehab
If you know a teen who is abusing alcohol, don’t wait to intervene. The sooner your teen gets help for alcohol abuse, the more likely they’ll be to avoid the long-lasting effects of their alcohol abuse. Fortunately, there are many different teen alcohol rehabs to choose from. The most effective teen alcohol rehab, however, may be a residential treatment program. Here your teen will have access to 24/7 supervision and care, detoxification, dual diagnosis treatment and a variety of holistic treatments based on their individual needs. Talk to a medical doctor about your teen’s symptoms and determine which type of alcohol abuse treatment is best for your teen.