Worrying about your teenager is something every parent can relate to. You wonder who they’re hanging out with, how they’re doing in school, and what they will do after high school. However, all of these worries seem silly when compared to wondering if your teen has an addiction to alcohol. An alcohol addiction can forever change the trajectory of your child’s life, and so it is important as a parent to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of teen alcoholism.
What Is Substance Use Disorder?
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a serious mental disorder and causes a person to have an inability to control their use of mind altering substances. These Substances can include legal drugs, illegal drugs, medications, and alcohol. The symptoms of SUD fall on a wide spectrum, and can range from moderate to severe. The most severe and dangerous form of SUD is addiction, where a person is completely unable to stop using their preferred substance. Substance Use Disorder in teens is especially worrying, as it can lead to a lifetime of dealing with addiction issues if it is not treated swiftly. Luckily, no matter how serious the symptoms, SUD is always considered treatable and there is no reason that a person suffering from it can’t return to a healthy lifestyle with the proper medical intervention.
Effects of Alcohol on Teens
One of the most common forms of SUD is Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol has numerous detrimental effects when used in excess, and these are even more pronounced when the user in question is a teenager. For example, a teen using alcohol may experience a disruption of growth or a delay in sexual development. In addition, teenage use of alcohol can result in a litany of serious social issues. However, the most worrying aspect of teen alcohol use is the effect it has on a developing brain.
Impact to Brain Development
Experts believe the brain does not finish developing until someone is in their mid to late twenties. This means that a teenage brain is not even close to finishing its development, and is highly susceptible to damage from alcohol abuse. Teen alcohol use can disrupt cognitive and neural development, which has huge ramifications. These disruptions in development lead to a lower aptitude for learning, as well as lifelong memory problems. Unfortunately, there is a lot we still do not understand about the human brain, and any damage done to it, such as through alcohol use, is usually considered to be permanent.
How to Recognize Teen Alcoholism
It is important to notice teen alcoholism as soon as possible, as to limit the amount of damage it does. In order to do this you must be both aware and on the lookout for the symptoms of teen alcoholism. These symptoms can be behavioral or physical, and some are more obvious than others.
Oftentimes, the behavioral symptoms of teen alcoholism will be the easiest to notice. These often manifest in the form of antisocial and reckless behavior, including:
- Getting into fights
- Lack of participation in previously enjoyed activities
- Higher rate of absences from school
- Lower grades
- Mood swings
- Loss of friendships
- Suicidal thoughts and/or behaviors
Equally as important to keep an eye out for are the physical symptoms of teen alcoholism. Some of these can be easily misattributed to other causes, so it is important to be aware of exactly what the physical symptoms are. These symptoms include:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Slurred speech
- Lack of hygiene
- Lack of grooming
- Smell of alcohol on breath
Treatment Programs for Teen Alcohol Addiction
When a teen is displaying signs of alcohol addiction, swift intervention is key. The longer the pattern of alcohol abuse is allowed to continue, the longer it can take to break that pattern. The best course of action is to immediately enroll your teen in a treatment program, to get them the help they require. In programs like this, professionals will help your teen to work through their problems and the underlying causes of their alcohol addiction. It is important to find a program that will treat the underlying causes of your teen’s addiction, so that they will have the best chance at recovery.
Many of the best programs will include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a type of therapy that focuses on thoughts and emotions to help the patient understand how their emotions affect their actions. CBT helps people to unlearn negative behaviors while also learning healthier thinking habits. This is often very helpful in helping teens battle alcoholism, by helping them understand what is driving their addiction.
It can also be helpful to find a program that utilizes mindfulness based therapies. This is a treatment that focuses on mindfulness through the use of meditation, present-moment awareness, and breathing exercises. During this therapy, the patient learns how to break away from negative, harmful thought patterns that lead to a mood-disoriented state of mind. This can help teenage alcoholics to stay out of the negative state of mind that may cause them to use alcohol.