terms: booze, sauce, brews, brewskis, hooch, hard stuff, juice
very important for all parents to know that alcohol abuse and dependence is
not only an adult problem. Alcohol abuse and dependency also affects a
significant number of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12
and 20, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.
The average age when children first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13
years for girls. According to research by the National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents who begin drinking with some
regularity before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop
alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.
Fact: According to the
National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, the three leading
causes of death for 15 to 24 year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and
suicides. Alcohol is a leading factor is all three. Dependence
on alcohol and other drugs is also associated with psychiatric problems such
as depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or antisocial
How can I tell if my child is
it is very difficult to identify if your son or daughter is drinking.
Many teens will drink when they are out with their friends, when they are at
sleepovers, or even when they are alone. It is important to look for
specific signs and symptoms if you suspect that your child is drinking.
Some immediate signs include:
- slower reaction time
- slurred speech
- memory loss
- impaired vision
- dulled smell
- pin-point pupils and red
- severe mood swings
One can also look for these signs
- change in personality
- hidden bottles or other
evidence of alcohol consumption
- lack of coordination
Where can I get help? If you
feel that your son or daughter is drinking or you feel that he/she is
showing signs of drinking, you can get help, from several sources:
- Call and speak with your child’s
guidance counselor at school.
- For information and referrals
contact the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at
- Call AA Alcoholics Anonymous’
24-hour hotline: (631) 669-1124; or go to their website:
- Read How to Cope with a
Teenage Drinker: Changing Adolescent Alcohol Abuse, by
Gary Forrest, for suggestions and advice.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration
Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
Jessica Salveson, Social Worker, CMS
Teenagers may be involved
with alcohol and legal or illegal drugs in various ways. Experimentation
with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is common. Unfortunately,
teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the
consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible and
immune to the problems that others experience. Using alcohol and tobacco at
a young age increases the risk of using other drugs later. Some teens will
experiment and stop, or continue to use occasionally, without significant
problems. Others will develop a dependency, moving on to more dangerous
drugs and causing significant harm to themselves and possibly others.
Adolescence is a time for trying new things. Teens use
alcohol and other drugs for many reasons, including curiosity, because it
feels good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to fit in. It is difficult
to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious
problems. Teenagers at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems
- with a family history of
- who are depressed
- who have low
- who feel like they don’t
fit in or are out of the mainstream
Teenagers abuse a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Legally
available drugs include alcohol, prescribed medications, inhalants (fumes
from glues, aerosols, and solvents) and over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep,
and diet medications. The most commonly used illegal drugs are marijuana
(pot), stimulants (cocaine, crack, and speed), LSD, PCP, opiates, heroin,
and designer drugs (Ecstasy). The use of illegal drugs is increasing,
especially among young teens. The average age of first marijuana use is 14,
and alcohol use can start before age 12. The use of marijuana and alcohol in
high school has become common.
Drug use is associated with a variety of
negative consequences, including increased risk of serious drug use later in
life, school failure, and poor judgment which may put teens at risk for
accidents, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.
Parents can help through early education about drugs,
open communication, good role modeling, and early recognition if problems
Warning signs of
teenage alcohol and drug abuse may include:
Fatigue, repeated health
complaints, red and glazed eyes, and a lasting cough.
personality change, sudden
mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem,
poor judgment, depression, and a general lack of interest.
starting arguments, breaking
rules, or withdrawing from the family.
decreased interest, negative
attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy, and discipline
new friends who are less
interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the
law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music.
Some of the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other problems.
Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should not be expected to make
the diagnosis. An effective way for parents to show care and concern is to
openly discuss the use and possible abuse of alcohol and other drugs with
Consulting a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs is a
good first step. This should often be followed or accompanied by a
comprehensive evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Your
child’s school can also be a valuable resource, including guidance
counselors, social workers and school psychologists.
This information was reprinted from
the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry (AACAP) which represents over 6900 child and adolescent
psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional
training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent
The Facts for
Families© series is developed and distributed by the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
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