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Parents, Be Aware of the Signs of Teenage Alcohol Abuse this Back to School Season

For parents who are looking for signs of teens drinking this back to school season, there is a reason for your concern, as the use of alcohol by underage individuals is, according to the NIAAA, “widespread.” “In 2009, about 10.4 million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 drank more than ‘just a few sips’ of alcohol.” Teens who get older actually begin to drink more as “more than 70% of teens have had at least one drink” by the age of 18. Underage drinking is a concerning issue, and there are signs to be aware of in order to help protect your child.

Academic and Behavioral Issues in School

A teenager whose attitude is changing, especially in school, may be abusing alcohol. Adolescence is a difficult time, and many teens lash out, become apathetic, or engage in problematic behavior. Sometimes, this is just a part of being a teenager. But if your child

  • Starts getting disciplined every day
  • Won’t complete assignments
  • Is failing two or more of their classes
  • Has gotten suspended or expelled

you have a cause for alarm. Alcohol abuse can cause apathy and behavioral issues, especially in teens, and those who exhibit these problems may need help.

Changing Friend Groups

teen drug abuse

If your teen is withdrawn and having trouble in school they may be engaging in alcohol abuse.

If your child’s friendships suddenly change, this could be another sign. Many teens who start abusing alcohol and/or drugs will only want to spend time with others who do so too. Your child is going through many changes already and, according to the NIAAA, the desire for risky behavior may lead to experimentation with alcohol. “This behavior then shapes the child’s environment, as he or she chooses friends and situations that support further drinking.”

Physical Signs

There are many physical signs of alcohol abuse that your child may exhibit, especially if they are drunk currently. If your teen comes home late or won’t talk about where they have been, look for these signs:

  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination problems
  • Problems with memory or concentration
  • Breath smelling of alcohol
  • Mood swings

Alcohol abuse can be very obvious, but sometimes, teens will do everything they can to hide their abuse of alcohol from you. Observing them and noticing these issues is an obvious sign, but teens who drink constantly will have problems remembering what was said to them before or may not be able to concentrate, even when they are not currently drunk. Watching for these signs can be important.

What Should I Do?

It is true that “youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience” issues with school, relationships, the law, and their own health, as well as unplanned sexual encounters, “abuse of other drugs,” and a “higher risk for suicide” (CDC). But talking to your teen calmly and rationally about the situation is the best way to help them.

  • Discuss what is concerning you and listen to what your child says.
  • Help your child understand the risks involved in what they are doing.
  • Let your child know that you are there for them.
  • Listen and be patient.

It can be very hard to discuss these issues with your teen, but remembering to stay calm and to watch for these signs is very important.

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