Teen Alcohol Abuse

Teen alcohol abuse is common and can lead to teen alcohol addiction. Teens abusing alcohol may need help to overcome alcohol addiction or dependency. Teen alcohol abuse is on the rise. If your teen is struggling with a drinking problem keep reading.

Almost 80% of teens have tried alcohol, though far fewer use it frequently. Teens may drink because of peer pressure or curiosity, or for more serious reasons like teen depression or trying to escape from problems. Alcohol is a depressant, which can slow a teen's reactions and dull their judgement, leading to accidents and poor choices like having unprotected sex. Also, teen alcohol abuse can damage a teen's developing brain.

Teen alcohol abuse means having dangerous drinking habits. Because alcohol abuse is especially dangerous for teens, any teen use of alcohol could be considered teen alcohol abuse. The younger teens are when they start using alcohol, the more likely they are to develop dangerous drinking habits or become addicted to alcohol.

Teen alcohol abuse in teens is also linked to an increased risk of:

  • Health problems like obesity and organ damage
  • Brain damage
  • Sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
  • Trouble at school, home, or with the law
  • Teen Violence
  • Accidents and death

Binge drinking is more common among teens than older drinkers, and can result in alcohol poisoning. This can cause:

  • Severe vomiting
  • A drop in blood sugar
  • Sleepiness or passing out
  • Breathing problems
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Teen alcohol abuse can lead to physical and mental addiction or dependence on alcohol, where the teen needs to drink to feel normal or avoid withdrawal. Teens may have a teen alcohol abuse addiction if they:

  • Can't stop using alcohol
  • Drink to escape from problems
  • Drink alone or hide their drinking even from friends
  • Have periods of black-out when they can't remember what happened
  • Keep drinking even though it's causing problems in their lives
  • Feel ill or like something's not right when they don't drink

The chances that a teen will abuse alcohol can be reduced by:

  • Talk to teens about why teen alcohol use is dangerous and why they should not drink alcohol
  • Establishing fair, clear rules and be consistent in enforcing consequences when teens break them
  • Setting a good example by not drinking in front of teens and not acting like you need a drink to have fun
  • Talking to teens about false ideas that the media portrays about drinking alcohol, such as that it will make them popular or attractive to others
  • Asking teens lots of questions about where they are going and what they are doing - let them know that you need to ask what they’re doing because you care about their well being
  • Make sure your teen can call you or someone else if they ever need a ride or help getting out of a bad situation

If a teen is already abusing alcohol or has an alcohol addiction, he or she may need medical help to recover. A doctor and a counselor can help a teen detox from alcohol and address the reasons for his or her alcohol abuse so the teen can avoid alcohol in the future. Teens may also need to stay in the hospital or in a treatment program if their teen alcohol abuse problem is serious.

After teen alcohol abuse treatment, teens need a lot of love, patience, and support to help them stay sober. They may need to join a support group and avoid friends who drink. If they slip and drink again, parents should try to be patient with their recovery. Family members who are struggling with a loved one’s alcoholism can also get counseling or join a support group like Al-Anon.


Nemours, TeensHealth, Alcohol

American Academy of Family Physicians, FamilyDoctor.org, "Drinking: Facts for Teens" [online]

SAMHSA Health Information Network, "Tips for Teens: The Truth About Alcohol" [online]

Related Article: Alcohol Treatment for Teens >>