Is Your Teen at Risk for Alcohol Abuse?
It can be a very frightening thought, but parents should consider that influences on their teens may prove too much to overcome, leading to a substantial risk for experimenting with and abuse of alcohol. The question is how do you know if your teen is at risk for alcohol abuse? Here we look at some answers.
First, let’s examine a few facts.
One in three children begins drinking by the end of the eighth grade. That’s according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Even more disturbing, at least to concerned parents, is that of that number, half of the children report having been drunk.
Identifying the risks of alcohol abuse for adolescents, those children aged nine through 18, becomes a primary importance for parents and other caregivers.
Why Worry About Teen Use of Alcohol?
Maybe you believe that your teenager will not succumb to the influence of his or her peers and begin sampling alcohol at parties and get-togethers, let alone fall prey to repeated use and then abuse of alcohol.
Maybe you’re not living in the real world. Consider some of the following things we know about teens and alcohol use.
- Alcohol use is common among teens. When something is fairly easy to get, as alcohol is, the possibility for use and misuse increases exponentially. Teens pilfer alcohol from their parents’ homes, or from the residences of their friends’ parents, even their older siblings’ apartments, cars, or ask their older siblings or young adult relatives to buy it for them. As such, alcohol is the first choice among teens, the go-to drug that teens choose from every socioeconomic background, demographic, region of the country, age, sex and other factors. Various studies show that alcohol use increases as teens get older, from about seven percent of 12-year-olds to nearly 70 percent of those aged 18 (NIAAA, 2011). Johnston et al., 2011 found that about one in 14 eighth-graders, one in six 10th graders and one in four 12th graders report having five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks.
- Alcohol use is risky for teens. Not only is alcohol use widespread among teens, but it’s also extremely risky for them. Alcohol use often results in unintentional injuries, death, and suicide attempts, victimization of others, increased aggression, unplanned and unwanted pregnancies and infections as a result of unprotected sex, and an increase in both social and academic problems. Every year, about 5,000 persons under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. This includes death from car crashes, homicides, suicides, and injuries from falls, burns and drowning. In addition, years of drinking during adolescence, puts teens at greater risk for alcohol dependence in their older years. Another troubling consequence of chronic drinking during the teen years is long-lasting structural and functional changes in the brain.
- Alcohol use is often the marker for other risky behaviors. Researchers know that when teens display one risky behavior, whether it is alcohol use or smoking, using illicit drugs or having unprotected sex, it is generally a pretty good indication that they’re experimenting with and engaging in other risky behaviors as well. Knowing that alcohol is often the first type of risky behavior a teen gets involved with can help parents and other caregivers a leg up on identifying when their son or daughter may need help.
- Teens often are able to hide their alcohol use. While it seems highly unlikely that you could fail to detect your teen’s use of alcohol, the reality is that teens have become quite adept at cloaking signs of their use of the substance. Often parents don’t want to see obvious signs, or overlook what should be concerning to them as something else, something that will blow over or is just temporary, like having a bad day or “just being a teenager.” But failing to know the signs and symptoms of alcohol use and abuse in your teen could prove disastrous. It’s far better to be informed and be on the lookout for the tendency of teens to want to drink alcohol, especially with their peers.
Why Do Teens Drink?
While you might think the answer to the question of why teens drink is obvious, the truth is that there are multiple reasons. All of them are worth considering as you begin to assess whether your teen is at risk for alcohol abuse.
If you have only one child, and that child is now a teenager or will soon be one, some of this may be new to you. If you have other children who are either teenagers now or who have progressed into adulthood already, you may have some experience with teens and alcohol experimentation, use and abuse. Even so, every child is different and has to be looked upon as a unique individual.
Here are some of the common reasons why teens drink:
- They want to fit in socially.
- They like the way alcohol makes them feel.
- They want to feel more grown up and adult.
- They often tend to be risk-takers and may begin drinking because they find it exciting and, of course, an act of rebellion or testing limits (that also happens to be against the law).
- They come from a family with alcohol abuse by one or more parents or other siblings already present. This is known as genetic influence.
- They’re influenced by the media’s glamorization of drinking and societal norms that seem to give a wink and a nod to drinking.
- They’re using alcohol as a way to deal with their problems.
- They see alcohol as a way to deal with how tough it is to be a teenager.
- They find that alcohol helps give their lives some sort of meaning.
- Teen girls, especially, may resort to drinking to help boost their self-confidence, lose their inhibitions, to reduce tension, feel sexier, or even to lose weight.
Learn more about the Symptoms of Teen Alcohol Abuse and Treatment >>