Teen Alcohol Use: Understanding How It Starts

Two male teenagers sitting against a metal wall with beer bottles in their hands.

Alcohol is the most widely abused substance by teenagers. In fact, nearly 75% of students admit to consuming alcohol before they graduate high school. Because it is continually a growing problem parents face, understanding how it starts, including the signs and symptoms of alcohol use, is essential to helping your child avoid consumption.

At Miramar Recovery, we believe in the importance of creating an open line of communication with your child about alcohol and drug use. The more you talk to your child about substances, such as alcohol, the less likely they will be to abuse them.

If you suspect that your teen has drunk alcohol before or is struggling with an alcohol problem, we are here to help. Together, we can reduce the risk of alcohol abuse in teens.

What is teen alcohol abuse?

Teen alcohol abuse is defined as the consistent consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol.

It is a growing problem in the United States. According to the CDC, 14% of high schoolers admitted to binge drinking, a significant issue regarding alcohol addiction and abuse.

Casual drinking can lead to an addiction that causes your teen to crave alcohol daily. While some teens may be able to consume a few drinks here and there with no addiction noted, others may become addicted after just a few drinks.

Although there is no definitive reason why alcohol affects people in different ways when it comes to its addictive properties, it is most often linked to personality traits and genetics.

How does it start?

There are several reasons why teens may start to drink alcohol. Some kids begin drinking to fit in with a group of friends, while others may do so to suppress their negative thoughts and emotions.

Teens are also bigger risk-takers, hoping to try something new for the first time without believing that they will become addicted to alcohol.

Another significant factor that leads to more teens drinking is whether alcohol is present around them with the adults in their lives. Often, if adults drink, teens are more likely to do so.

Whatever the reason, alcohol has posed a big problem in the lives of many teens. Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol use in teens helps combat alcohol use quickly.

The signs and symptoms of alcohol use in teens

If asked directly, most teens lie about whether they’ve tried alcohol, especially when their parents are on the receiving end.

The most common signs and symptoms of alcohol use and abuse include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Secretive behavior
  • A change in their friends group
  • Declining grades
  • Poor hygiene
  • Rule-breaking, especially when it comes to curfews
  • A sudden loss of interest in their favorite extracurricular activities

The dangers of underage drinking are real

When it comes to underage drinking, the dangers are prominent. Teens who drink are more likely to experience:

  • Issues at school, typically related to grades and attendance
  • Problems with the law, mainly due to driving under the influence
  • Physical violence
  • An increased risk of suicide
  • Memory problems
  • A higher risk of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents
  • Physical changes, such as immune system suppression and significant changes to their still-developing brain
  • Unprotected sex and sexual violence
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • An increased chance of becoming addicted to other substances

How to help your child combat alcohol abuse

Talking to your teen often about the detrimental effects of alcohol abuse is the best way to combat it. When speaking with your child, make sure to foster productive communication that is built on empathy, compassion, and nonjudgment. Feel free to share your own experiences with them so they can comprehend real-world experiences. If you believe your child is already struggling with alcohol abuse, it may be time to schedule an intervention and get help for your teen through professional rehabilitation treatment to get them sober sooner. Don’t delay care; your teen needs you now more than ever.


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