Despite its ubiquity, alcohol can be a dangerous drug, especially for teens. Due to their developing brains, teens are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than adults and are more likely to develop a habit when drinking at an earlier age. Through pattern use, alcohol can trigger a physical and psychological condition defined as an alcohol use disorder. Frequent binge drinking, “problem drinking”, and even alcoholism is considered forms of alcohol use disorder, wherein the compulsive or recurring excessive consumption of alcohol begins to coincide with severe behavioral and physical symptoms. According to the CDC, more than 11 percent of all alcohol in the US is consumed by those aged 12 to 20, and underage drinkers on average consume more drinks per occasion than adult drinkers.
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Alcoholism and Binge Drinking
Alcohol intoxication can range from minor to severe, and binge drinking currently contributes to about 4,300 underage deaths per year. Once alcohol binds to receptors in the brain, it slows reflexes, impairs motor function, and affects memory and mental capacity. Signs of excessive alcohol use and alcohol use disorder include:
- Continuing drinking despite interpersonal problems and promises to stop
- Risky behavior and decision making
- Compulsive drinking, frequent cravings
- Blackouts and memory gaps
- Failing to fulfill obligations at school, work, or home due to drinking
- Hiding alcohol, excessive drinking
- Relying on alcohol to relax or cope
- Nausea and vomiting
Alcohol’s effects on the body are accentuated through overuse. Ethanol (the type of alcohol found in most alcoholic beverages) is metabolized in the liver, where it gets broken down into individual components that the body can dispose of. This process releases dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals that cause incremental liver damage and inflammation, which can turn into liver cirrhosis, serious scarring of liver tissue.
Binge Drinking and Teen Alcoholism Treatment
Alcohol use disorders can exist in a variety of severities, with several underlying factors. Some teens primarily start drinking due to peer pressure and continue to drink excessively due to a predisposition towards alcoholism. Withdrawal (discomfort caused by stopping drinking) and tolerance (needing to drink more for the same effect) are common signs of a developing alcohol use disorder, but they do not confirm one.
Teen alcoholism treatment needs to address both the physical and psychological impacts of this complex disorder. Many teens drink to cope with something traumatic or see it as their only available/effective coping mechanism for ongoing stress. Others have developed a serious dependence on alcohol due to early binge drinking. Teen alcoholism treatment includes:
Detox and recovery treatments involve separating an individual from the source of their addiction, to treat and combat withdrawal symptoms, and give both their body and mind the chance to recover and stay away from temptation until all symptoms have subsided. Some recovery programs are inpatient, requiring residential treatment, while others help support teens through outpatient care.
Individual & Group Talk Therapy
Counseling and therapy sessions can help a teen identify their cravings and thoughts, isolate them, and dissociate from their urges. It can also give an individual the opportunity to understand why they drink and seek alternative ways to cope with their problems.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Conditions
Continued drinking can also be a sign of other relevant mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Alcohol temporarily soothes most anxiety symptoms but continued use and withdrawal always lead to a long-term aggravation of anxiety, causing a vicious cycle. Binge drinking and alcoholism can also cause significant physical damage, requiring treatment and medication.
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Bridging the Gap Between Teen Alcoholism Treatment and Recovery
At Visions Treatment Centers, we ensure every teen’s recovery needs are met, through:
- A supportive community of other adolescents and experienced staff
- Ongoing assistance and post-recovery resources
- Plenty of amenities to foster alternative and healthier habits
- Counseling and therapy sessions
We recognize that alcohol use disorders such as alcoholism and binge drinking present a serious threat to the health and safety of any child or young adult, and we understand that there’s often more to a teen’s behavior than the immediate short-term reward of drinking. We work with our patients to cater a program that works best for them.