A Concise Guide to Teen Alcoholism, Risk Factors, Signs and Treatment
Children of alcoholics are five times more likely to become alcoholics as adults due to heavy environmental and genetic influences. Moreover, children growing up in a household with at least one alcoholic parent or guardian inevitably experience chaos, volatility and physical/emotional abuse.
Combined with the heritability of alcoholism genes which research has found to exist in families with a history of alcoholism, these children rarely escape an adolescence without suffering from the physical, emotional and social consequences of alcoholism.
Top 5 Risk Factors
In additional to parental influence, teenagers are experiencing many vulnerabilities associated with the transition from from childhood to adulthood. Impulse control issues, bad decision making and the fear of ostracization by their peers makes them psychologically and emotionally frail. The importance of having loving and stable parents who can capably guide them through this uncertain period of life is vital to helping them develop a strong sense of identity and self-worth.
While having alcoholic parents is a powerful indicator that a child will develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their life, adolescents who are surrounded by positive role models are more likely to resist the false sense of self-assurance provided by alcohol and other teenage alcoholics.
Besides having alcoholic parents, other risk factors that may contribute to a teenager becoming an alcoholic include:
- Children with undiagnosed mental disorders–personality disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or impulse control issues will create deep-seated psychological problems in teenagers who are constantly in trouble with authority figures (teachers, law enforcement).
To try to “fit in” with others, teenagers affected by developmental difficulties often drink to repress their severe anxiety, low self-esteem and awkward social skills.
- Living in depressed socioeconomic conditions–although their parents may not be alcoholics, teenagers living in poor neighborhoods where violence and substance abuse is witnessed regularly may eventually succumb to peer pressure and drink to relieve the stress that poverty and lack of resources brings to inner cities and rural areas.
- Adolescents who suffer some kind of trauma as children are at risk for becoming an alcoholic. This trauma could be anything from sexual or physical abuse to living through a catastrophe (civil war, mass shooting incident, etc.).
- Being subject to overly authoritarian or uninvolved parenting skills–teenagers who are constantly monitored and given no freedom to exert their opinions or engage in decision-making will inevitably experience low self-esteem and a lack of self-identity that could lead them to use alcohol as an escape route.
Alternately, teenagers with parents who work long hours or are absent from their child’s life due to their own personal or psychological problems may force their teenager to seek companionship from peers or adults who drink, take drugs or engage in promiscuous behavior.
- Teens who have suffered from a learning disability since the beginning of their academic career–frustration from not understanding why they cannot do well in school coupled by unwarranted criticisms from parents, teachers and principals for being “lazy” may lead to alcoholism as a way to alleviate anxiety and depression as well as to be accepted by peers who also abuse addictive substances.
Signs That a Teenager is Drinking Heavily and Frequently
- Slurred speech, unsteady walk, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol on clothes and breath
- Unusual sleepiness, weight gain or loss, increased incidences of illnesses
- Regular display of “hangover” symptoms–nausea, upset stomach, headache, sensitivity to light and noise and intense thirst
- Sudden involvement with law enforcement when none previously existed
- Personality changes, mood swings, hanging out with a different set of friends and neglecting schoolwork
Directly confronting a teenager about drinking habits generally results in the teenager adopting a hostile attitude and accusing the parent of not “trusting” him or of being an overprotective parent.
Rarely can parents cope successfully with an adolescent alcoholic by themselves due to the complex nature of adolescent developmental psychology and the need for mediation to resolve dysfunctional family relationships.
Professional assistance offered by Serenity Now addiction specialists is essential to getting an alcoholic teen into treatment programs designed especially for adolescents with substance abuse and mental health problems.
Treatment Methods for Teenage Alcoholics
A thorough physical and psychological assessment is essential for determining whether the adolescent is suffering from a dual diagnosis, or alcoholism with co-occurring mental illnesses. Tools such as the Personal Experience Screening Questionnaire and the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory are extremely helpful in accurately identifying the severity of the addiction, the existence of a psychiatric disorder and whether the child suffers from undiagnosed learning difficultues.
Therapeutic approaches employed by Serenity Now include one or more of the following:
- 12 Step programs
- Involvement in therapeutic communities
- Individual and group counseling
- Application of cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques
- Family therapy
- Outpatient treatment
- Holistic and spiritual therapy (if requested)
Serenity Now also provides a detoxification program that is supervised by physicians, psychiatrists and counselors specializing in alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues. In addition, there are a number of medications helpful to teenagers fighting alcoholism that suppress cravings caused by a severe imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain primarily responsible for the urge to drink excessively.
If you think your teenager is drinking, don’t wait until your child has been arrested for drunk driving or expelled from school to ask for help. Call Serenity Now today and talk to one of our compassionate staff about how you can get your teen enrolled in our professionally developed program for teenage alcoholics to begin rebuilding you and your child’s life.