As a parent, a caregiver, or even a concerned friend, it can be difficult to confront the signs of teenage alcoholism. There’s a tendency to want to avoid “overreacting” to a teenager drinking, especially if it’s a friend of yours or if you’re a parent who is worried about alienating them and having them not trust you with things later on.
While many teenagers do experiment with alcohol, it’s also very easy for drinking among teenagers to get out of hand, to a point where they develop dependence on alcohol during these formative years. People who drink during their teenage years are more likely to become alcoholics, although there are many other causes of alcoholism, if someone is susceptible to this disease, the teenager years are usually the first chance that alcoholism has a chance to display itself.
This is also a time when problem drinking can manifest itself, and this can lead to habits that can cause someone a lot of trouble in their later teenage years, their twenties, their thirties, and even longer if they never address it.
Here are some common signs of teenage alcoholism, or problem drinking. Someone could display different signs, or none at all, or some combination of these signs and other ones, but this list is to give you some ideas of what to look out for and what to keep an eye on.
Signs of Teenage Alcoholism
We can’t stress it enough that these signs of teenage alcoholism can vary from person to person. There are some common traits that will often show up when someone is an alcoholic, or has some problematic drinking habits.
Physical Signs of Alcoholism in Teenagers
Some of the physical signs of alcoholism in teens are fatigue, slurring their speech, not taking as much care of their appearance such as grooming, bloodshot eyes, and of course, smelling of alcohol.
Fatique can be common among teens, especially busy ones, and some people get bloodshot eyes from staring at a phone or a computer screen for too long, so not all of these things are guarantees that someone is struggling with alcohol, but smelling of alcohol is a pretty strong sign in and of itself.
Behaviors of Teenagers Who Drink
One way to determine if your teenager has started to drink or has a serious drinking problem is by looking at their behaviors.
This can be tricky, too, because much like some of the previous examples, these are also things that are common among teenagers regardless of whether or not they’re drinking. Things like spending more time in their bedrooms or staying at a friend’s, or keeping to themselves more, or becoming distant from their parents… none of these are particularly rare behaviors for teens, and they don’t necessarily mean someone is drinking.
Remember, what we’re looking at here is the bigger picture, and sometimes the best thing you can do is to sit down and talk to your teens about alcohol, what their past experiences have been, what they know about it, if any of their friends have had any close calls, and so on.
Teenage Alcoholism: What’s the Next Step?
It’s not always easy to determine what’s normal teenage boundary-pushing or experimentation, and what is a seedling to a full-blown life-consuming alcohol addiction. As a parent, a caregiver, or a friend, you want to make sure you’re there for someone, but without pushing them away in the process. It can be a very fragile balance, but the fact that you care enough to be looking out for them says a lot!
Depending on where you live, there could be various programs available for teenagers who drink, whether it’s some type of rehabilitation center for teens, or just a matter of finding a counselor or someone to talk to and to learn some better coping mechanisms. The course of action will really depend on how severe the drinking program is, how cooperative the teenager is, and what type of help they need.
See more: Why do my cheeks get red when I drink?