Alcoholism in Teenagers
The mother of a teenage daughter was talking to friends. The conversation was light hearted, but mom said something very telling. She laughingly explains, “My 17 year-old wants me to buy her a six pack of beer when I go to the store.” The others laughed along, but the truth is, the daughter actually did make the request and mom was happy to accommodate the request, but she of course wanted her daughter to drink it at home and not go out with it. True story.
Parents do not necessarily understand that by allowing their children to drink, even under their supervision, they are inviting disaster. Children and alcohol do not mix. Statistics clearly show that children who are allowed to drink as teenagers are far more likely to develop the disease of alcoholism than those who wait until the legal age of 21 to take that first drink.
Parents will likely argue this point, because they know what’s best for their kids, and who am I to tell them differently? Alcoholism in teenagers is not something they need to worry about.Police are called by a neighbor, who complains of a noisy “beer party” doing on next door. High school kids are gathered with a keg and having a good time. The police do not enter and essentially do nothing mainly because mom and dad are there and “supervising.”
Teens naturally curious
Teens are naturally curious and that leads to some potentially destructive behavior. Peer pressure comes into play, as kids want to fit in and be a part of the crowd. But it’s not just teenagers, as kids in their pre-teen years may engage in risky behavior as well.
The major concern with alcoholism in teenagers is the fact that the teen brain is still developing and will not be fully developed until the individual reaches early adulthood. The last part of the brain to develop is the frontal lobe, where logic and proper choices are made, unlike the back portion of the brain where coordination is regulated. That is why a teenage male can be a “man child” who is capable of amazing physical feats, yet has little emotional development and can’t handle the pressures of being an adult.
A DISEASE of the brain
Alcoholism is a brain disease and so it is not a huge jump to conclude that introducing alcohol to a teenage brain is not a good idea. Add to that the poor diet of teenagers and other negative environmental factors, such as child abuse or neglect, and it is easy to understand why a teen is at risk if allowed to consume alcohol.
Parents need to be vigilant to help avoid alcoholism in teenagers. Parents need to be parents, not buddies or social peers. Teens need consistency, honesty and a loving, supportive hand. Prevention of teenage alcoholism begins at home and the responsibility lies with parents.
Most commonly, parents don’t listen. It’s not that they don’t want to listen, it’s that they don’t have listening skills. Listening means not talking and parents like to instruct, lecture and direct, not necessarily listen.
Teens need to be heard, not merely listened to and that means being patient and allowing them to take their time, free from interruption and allowing them to fully express themselves. Understand that this can be a difficult process, as teens aren’t always open to sharing with adults, especially if they suspect you’re not listening.
Watch the signs of alcoholism in teenagers!
Watch for the signs. If your teen has been using alcohol, or some other substance, there will be evidence. Perhaps they have experienced some mood swings, other than the usual eye-rolling and rebellion that is expected in some measure. But when those mood swings, or changes in attitude get in the way of completing homework assignments, or result in a lower grade point average, that’s a sign something is wrong.
Perhaps they have lost interest in hobbies and recreational activities. If they have lost interest in friends, that’s a sure sign something is up, or if they suddenly stop seeing their friends in exchange for a new set of friends, that can also be a sign of trouble.
Sadly in alcoholism in teenagers, the alcohol wins
Alcoholics, teenaged or otherwise, will become slaves to the disease. Your teen might start to steal money, or run afoul with the law. They may be asking for money, but they never have anything show for it. They may sleep too little, or too much, even for a teenager. Look for changes in their eating habits. They may lose weight, or they may experience tiredness or fatigue. If they avoid their parents, that’s a huge sign. They’ll go to their room, or keep from seeing other people.
The younger they start the worse it is
The younger a child is when they take that first drink, the more likely they are to develop alcoholism. Boys usually have their first experience with alcohol, usually beer, when they are 11, while girls have their first drink at 13. Almost half of all 14 year-olds have had a drink, and by the time they are 15 that’s when just about all of them have had something.
The ones who drink on a regular basis by age 15 are in serious jeopardy of developing the disease. Specifically, a 15 year-old that drinks is five times more likely to become an alcoholic!
Alcohol often cause fatal accidents
Most fatal traffic accidents have an alcohol component, and for teenagers, auto accidents are one of the leading cases of death, along with suicide and homicide. Think about that—alcohol, suicide and homicide. Alcohol is also a gateway drug, like tobacco. That is, teens may start with alcohol and cigarettes, but move to marijuana, and other illegal street drugs.
As frightening as it is to realize that a teenager is so vulnerable, take heart because there is hope. There are excellent resources for parents and treatment centers that will help restore your teen to health and vitality.
Good defense should work
The best defense is a good offense. Parents can take the lead and set the tone for their teenaged son or daughter. By being watchful, understanding behavioral trends, paying attention to details, parents can keep on top of any potential problem with their kids.