According to the Office of National Drug Control’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, “Many kids start drinking in middle school. In fact, one out of every two eighth graders has tried alcohol. Additionally, more kids use alcohol than use tobacco or illicit drugs and more children are killed by alcohol than all illegal drugs combined.” This is one reason why parents need to learn the signs and symptoms of a young person’s drinking.
Because alcohol lowers people’s inhibitions, teens tend to make bad decisions once they start to drink. Statistics show that approximately 5,000 young people under 21 are dying each year as a result of underage drinking. A website dedicated to providing parents with the information to raise drug-free kids, www.theantidrug.com, says there are 1,900 alcohol related deaths in motor vehicle accidents, 1,600 homicides, 300 suicides and hundreds of falls, burns and drownings.
It is simple. Our teens do things while drunk that they would not do if they were sober. These statistics do not account for increased injuries, school or work problems, teen pregnancies, sexual assaults, or any other number of serious complications that result more often when alcohol and teenagers mix. These are just the number of deaths attributed to teenage drinking.
But, detecting teenage alcohol use is tricky. Almost every teen has been known to have a change in their sleeping habits, show mood changes, cock an attitude, throw a temper outburst, and change friends--maybe all in the course of one week. Yet these are all signs of underage drinking. Alcohol shows differently in different people, so you may see any variety of changes in your teen. Try to perceive what is normal versus unusual for your child. Just because you see one change, it does not necessarily mean they are drinking, but if you start to see a pattern of a number of the items listed below, you may be onto something. To stay on top of things, parents must be alert to more subtle signals such as:
Do you see signs of depression or withdrawal?
Hostility or difficulty getting along with their friends?
Is your teen uncharacteristically passive?
Or, are they combative or argumentative lately?
Irritability is also an indicator.
Teens may have losses of memory or blackouts associated with their drinking.
Is your teen vomiting?
Do they avoid coming near you after they have been out?
More specifically, do they make a mad dash for the bathroom to shower, brush their teeth and use mouthwash before speaking to you?
Once teens start drinking they may be more careless with grooming, paying little attention to their appearance.
If they have always been into sports, are they still playing sports?
Are you detecting any unusual breath odor?
Do you notice any drunken behavior, glazed eyes, or unexplained bruises and accidents? You may see flushed skin, swollen or puffy eyes, or bloodshot eyes.
Is your child using incense, room deodorizers or perfume to hide odors?
What about teens who suddenly start using mouthwash or popping breath mints?
Are they wearing clothes, hats or collecting other trivia that promote alcohol products? Are they using eye drops to reduce the red eyes?
Is your teen having difficulty focusing?
How are things going at school? Are the grades holding up?
If they work, are they having any problems at work?
Are they having problems with absenteeism, especially on Mondays?
Peer group changes are important indicators. Know who your kids are hanging out with.
Are you noticing secrecy about their possessions?
Or, secrecy about their activities?
What about their need to have secret conversations with their friends?
Have they been borrowing money more than usual?
According to theantidrug.com website, alcohol is only legal for those that are 21 year of age. Alcohol is a depressant which is absorbed into the bloodstream quickly and stays in the body for a few hours. The bloodstream carries it to all the body’s organs, so the entire body is affected - the brain, stomach, muscles, liver, kidneys and more. This explains why the list of physical changes is long. But, keep in mind that teenagers are still growing and developing. Alcohol use can actually affect their brains.
I want your feedback. If you learned from this article or have additional signs or symptoms other parents can watch for in their offspring which are not listed here, please leave a comment below. It will help other parents.
To learn more about alcohol abuse in teens or to learn what you can do to prevent your teen from drinking, go to: