Signs, Symptoms and Effects of Teen Alcohol Addiction

Understanding Teen Alcohol Addiction

Learn More About Teen Alcohol Addiction

Given the prevalence of alcohol addiction among adults in the United States, it should come as no surprise that teens are also engaging in unhealthy drinking behaviors. The practice of drinking to excess has become common for many young people, despite the damages to the mind and body that frequent inebriation can cause. Despite what is sometimes portrayed in various media outlets, binge drinking and blackouts are not a normal part of coming of age. Rather, they are dangerous practices that could lead to all types of negative consequences for teens.

Young people who abuse alcohol will be robbed of their ability to achieve to their full potential in academics, to forge healthy social relationships, and will suffer from a myriad of physiological damages. Relationships with loved ones will become strained as the alcohol-dependent teen falls further down the spiral of addiction. Further, teens who drink alcohol put themselves at risk for poor decision making when inhibitions are lowered, and this can result in both legal and interpersonal consequences that can be difficult to recover from.

And while alcohol addiction poses a significant threat to a young person’s wellbeing, there is hope. With the proper treatment, teens can overcome addictions of all kinds and learn to navigate symptoms of any co-occurring mental health conditions with guidance from a qualified team of professionals and a comprehensive program of care.


Statistics of Teen Alcohol Addiction

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2015, 7.7 million young people in the United States, ages 12–20, reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month. This data signals a dangerous trend in the amount of alcohol young people are consuming, and the prevalence of this behavior overall.

Causes and Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Teen Alcohol Addiction

Experts are still working to uncover the reasons why some teens abuse alcohol and others do not. And while there is certainly more research to be done, some factors have proven to indicate that a teen is a greater risk for developing an addiction to alcohol, some of which are described below:

Genetic: Alcohol dependence has shown to have a genetic component, meaning that having a close relative like a sibling or parent puts a teen at greater risk for developing a problem with substance abuse him or herself.

Environmental: Early exposure to alcohol addictionin the home may mean that a teen sees alcohol as a viable coping mechanism in times of distress. This misguided self-medication can be normalized if one is exposed to it over long periods of time.

Risk Factors:

  • Social circle in which alcohol addictionis common
  • Exposure to trauma
  • Living in poverty
  • Family history of mental illness and/or alcohol addiction
  • Personal history of mental illness and/or alcohol addiction
  • Early exposure to substance abuse in the home

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Alcohol Addiction

If you are a parent or if you work with teens regularly, it is important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction so that you can readily identify a teen who may be in need of professional help. The following describes some of the indicators that your teen may be abusing alcohol:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Failing to adhere to responsibilities at school, work, home, or in social settings
  • Slurred speech
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Consuming alcohol in settings where it is hazardous to do so, such as drinking and driving
  • Continuously consuming alcohol despite possessing a desire to put an end to one’s use of the substance
  • Spending significant amounts of time engaging in activities that center on acquiring, consuming, or recovering from the use of alcohol
  • No longer participating in activities or hobbies that one once enjoyed
  • Continuously consuming beer, wine, or liquor despite the onset of persistent problems that are a direct result of alcohol consumption

Physical symptoms:

  • Development of dependence, which is the body’s need to have alcohol in order to continue functioning
  • Lack of coordination
  • Involuntary rapid eye movement
  • Development of tolerance, which is the need to consume greater amounts of alcohol in order to experience the desired effects
  • Flushed skin

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Decreased ability to use appropriate decision-making skills
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Inability to sustain attention
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased ability to reason and use sound judgment
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Powerful, all-consuming cravings for alcohol

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Significant changes in mood and temperament
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation


Effects of Teen Alcohol Addiction

If left untreated, teens and adults alike will suffer many damaging physical effects from alcohol addiction including:

  • Kidney disease
  • Brain damage
  • Weakened immune system
  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease

In addition to the physical detriments listed above, alcohol addiction will take its toll on many other areas of a person’s life such as:

  • Decline in academic performance, potentially resulting in suspension, expulsion, or academic failure
  • Fractures in relationships with family and loved ones
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Social isolation, resulting in deteriorated friendships

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Teen Alcohol Addiction

Teens who are battling an addiction to alcohol are often simultaneously suffering from a mental health condition which is likely impacting their addiction. These conditions are said to be co-occurring, and can include the following:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose of Teen Alcohol Addiction

Effects of alcohol withdrawal: When a person abuses alcohol for a long period of time, he or she will develop a tolerance to the substance. This means his or her body is accustomed to the presence of alcohol, and therefore requires it for normal functioning. Upon abruptly ceasing or severely limiting one’s alcohol consumption, the following withdrawal symptoms will soon set in:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Hand tremors
  • Pulse rate exceeding 100 beats per minute
  • Heightened feelings of anxiety
  • Insomnia

Effects of alcohol overdose: Sometimes a person ingests more beer, wine, or liquor than his or her system can process, resulting in an overdose. Alcohol overdose can have fatal consequences, and if a teen who has been drinking begins showing any of the signs listed below, immediate medical attention should be sought.

  • Skin developing a bluish tint
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Clammy skin
  • Violent vomiting
  • Delayed response to stimuli
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
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I was afraid for my son's development when I found out that he drinks before he sleeps every night. Greenleaf was not only able to help him achieve sobriety, but also resolve the root cause of his alcohol addiction.

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