It is illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21 in the United States. Underage drinking can result in legal repercussions that could potentially to derail your child’s life. Community service, driver’s licence suspension, legal fees, jail time, and far worse. We are all aware of the negative effects that alcohol impairment has on driving and overall judgement. It results in poor decision making that can have permanent consequences. Drinking underage is irresponsible. It puts your child and those around them in danger.
Adolescents lack experience and emotional maturity. Feelings of invincibility can prevent them from fully evaluating the weight of their decisions. It is not uncommon for underage drinking to be in the form of binge drinking, which is classified as having 4-5 drinks in a two hour period. This high risk behavior results in diminished motor skills, severe lapses in judgement, and can lead to alcohol poisoning. Over time, excessive drinking takes a toll on mental health, school work, personal relationships, and can cause your child to stray from their future goals and aspirations.
Signs of Underage Drinking
There are several warning signs of adolescent alcohol use. Many of the symptoms are noticeable to teachers, friends, and family members. Other signs are more subtle. The presence of these warning signs should be taken seriously. In some cases, it may be necessary to seek treatment for adolescent alcohol use. Problems of this nature will not conveniently work themselves out. They require the intervention of behavioral professionals that specialize in treating adolescents. Don’t sit by idly waiting for the situation to escalate. The harmful effects will only worsen with time.
Symptoms of Underage Drinking
Changes in Behavior
When teenagers frequently drink alcohol there will be noticeable changes in their behavior. Mood changes associated with alcohol consumption are anger, aggressiveness, irritability, and being overly defensive. It also carries an emotional volatility that allows for rapid and dramatic mood shifts. Up one moment, down the next. Pay attention to your child’s behavior.
Losing Interest in Hobbies and Activities
Indulging in hobbies and participating in extracurricular activities plays a vital role in the physical, emotional, and communal development of adolescents. This sort of behavior should be encouraged and nurtured. When a teenager begins to develop a problem with alcohol, their attention shifts. They are likely to care less about participating in sports, band, and other activities they may be involved in. This is due to their new focus on satisfying a new urge.
Poor Academic Performance
Underage drinking commonly causes poor academic performance. Be on alert if your child starts inexplicably falling behind in their studies. Students who frequently consume alcohol may skip classes, exhibit disruptive behavior, neglect their homework, and receive failing grades. These are all signs of a potential problem. If you notice any of these behaviors in your child it is important that they be addressed immediately.
Changing Social Circles
Adolescence is a season of change and volatility. There is a finite difference between your child moving from one circle of the friends to another because it’s a good fit, and changing social circles for more sinister reasons. Get to know the people your teenager is spending their time with. Friends exert enormous influence on our behaviors. By taking the time to find out what your child is doing, where they are doing it, and with whom, you will make it more difficult for them to engage in destructive behaviors. If it is too late for that, it is time to seek the help of treatment professionals.
Lack of Concentration
Binge drinking alters brain activity. In fact, it results in a form of brain damage. For this reason, a common side effects of heavy drinking are memory loss and a lack of focus. The adolescent brain is still in the developmental stage. This makes it even more important to avoid substance use during this phase of life. The impact can be huge, and the damage could be permanent. Treating the problem as early as possible is the best practice.
Being Under the Influence
This one is a bit obvious, but the power of denial can be a strong force. If you notice that your child is under the influence of alcohol, it should merit an open conversation. The scent of alcohol is undeniable. Not only is it noticeable on the breath of those who have recently consumed it, but it also sweats out of the pores. When this happens, it is detectable on the clothes and sheets of those who have been drinking. Other signs of being under the influence are slurred speech, flushed face, lack of coordination, and blood shot eyes. If you notice these side effects in your child, let them know that you know.
Underage Drinking Stats*
Adolescent alcohol consumption is a serious issue that can derail a teenagers future if not treated promptly.
- 33% of 12th graders had consumed alcohol during the past 30 days.
- Adolescents who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.
- 33% of adolescents have had at least one drink by age 15. By age 18, that number nearly doubles to about 60%.
- There are more than 4,000 alcohol-related deaths in individuals under the age of 21 per year. This includes suicides, car accidents, alcohol poisoning, and homicides.
Abstaining from drinking alcohol is the only way to prevent the aforementioned risks entirely. Family First Adolescent Services specializes in treating alcohol use problems with a combination of therapies and trauma-informed care. We prioritize healing family dynamics so that your family can go on functioning in a healthy and compassionate manner. Our education program ensures that your child won’t fall behind in their studies while they are getting the help they need. Contact us to treat adolescent alcohol use.
How To Prevent Underage Drinking?
This can be a difficult problem. It is impossible to force your will on your child. However, there are some best practices for preventing your teenage child from consuming alcohol. The most important thing is to talk openly with your child. Talk about the very real dangers of peer pressure, as well as the negative consequences of alcohol use. Oftentimes, substance use is masking a deep trauma or pain. Do your best to find out what is missing from your child’s life.
Note that is just as important to listen to your child as it is to talk to them. Find out what’s going on in their life – who they are hanging out with and what they are doing. Let them know that it is okay to talk to you about anything. The goal is remove barriers, not build them. Over time, this will build a sense of trust and safety which will create a strong relationship.
Lastly, encouraging the benefits of extracurricular activities can’t be overstated. Every hour that your child is fostering a healthy sense of community while strengthening their bodies and minds is an hour spent proactively. Learn about their interests and encourage participation.
Treatment for Underage Drinking
The Family First Adolescent Services clinical model is organized around treating developmental trauma. We do this through a combination of individual, group, and family therapies – as well as through the adoption of the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM). We prioritize education and skill development so that your child doesn’t fall behind while in treatment.
Our goal is to eradicate underage drinking in adolescents so they are free to live fulfilling lives. A key step in treating teen alcoholism is in teaching them the tools of sustainable sobriety. We understand that the health and happiness your child is top priority. We aim to restore the harmony between adolescents and their families. This allows the entire family to heal and move forward into lasting recovery.