Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment: When To Seek Help

Substance abuse affects people of all ages, including teens and adolescents. It is important to know the signs of alcohol abuse in teens so you can seek help immediately for a teen who is abusing alcohol or other drugs.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Of all the substances that teenagers encounter in their lives today, alcohol poses one of the biggest threats to young adults. It is the most used substance by teenagers and adolescents.

Teens who engage in underage drinking are not just putting themselves at risk for legal trouble, but also a handful of other problems that could drastically affect their mental health and behavioral health.

Drinking alcohol as a teen puts that person at an increased risk for alcohol poisoning, car accidents, and suicide, along with long-term health issues and alcohol side effects.

Different forms of alcohol treatment options are available for teens to pursue recovery and get help.

Signs Of Teen Alcohol Abuse

It is not always easy to recognize teen drug or alcohol use, however, there are a number of signs to look out for.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking ivolves drinking of large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. When teens drink alcohol, they tend to binge drink with the intention of getting drunk.

Research suggests that on average, young people usually drink at least five drinks when they drink alcohol.

Signs of binge drinking include:

  • slurred speech
  • loss of inhibitions
  • slowed reflexes and reaction times
  • blurred vision
  • increased urination
  • poor concentration
  • poor coordination
  • altered emotions and behavior
  • sleepiness
  • vomiting

Empty Bottles And Other Evidence

A teenager who is engaging in risky drinking behaviors will most likely do everything they can to hide it from their parents or guardians.

Things to look out for include:

  • acting secretive when on the phone or when talking to their friends
  • avoiding answering questions about how they are spending their time
  • carrying around any sort of large bag for hiding alcohol
  • wanting to stay home from school more often, and faking illness to hide a hangover
  • disrupted sleep patterns and constant sleepiness

How To Know When To Seek Help For Teen Alcohol Abuse

It is not unusual for many teens to experiment with alcohol or drug use at least once or twice while still in high school and underage.

However, there is a big difference between someone experimenting a couple of times and them engaging in frequent binge drinking and reckless behavior.

If a teen starts exhibiting behavioral, physical, or psychological changes as a result of their drinking, it is most definitely time to seek help.

Behavioral Changes In Teens Who Drink

When a teen’s behavior seems different from normal all of the sudden, this tends to be a tell-tale sign of alcohol abuse or drug abuse.

Some behavioral signs of alcohol use include:

  • lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • lying or stealing
  • breaking rules
  • declining performance in school, skipping school
  • sudden change in friend group

Physical Changes In Teens Who Drink

You may also notice some outward changes in your teen due to drinking alcohol.

These might include a general decline in their appearance and hygiene, becoming ill more frequently, and changes in weight.

Psychological Changes In Teens Who Drink

Excessive alcohol drinking, especially once someone has developed a substance use disorder, could lead to mental effects. This includes exacerbating symptoms of existing mental health issues.

Other mental health symptoms associated with heavy drinking include:

  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • poor decision making
  • poor concentration and focus
  • lapses in memory
  • defensiveness when questioned about activities

Why It’s Important To Get Help For A Teen Who Abuses Alcohol

It is always important to seek help for someone you know who is abusing alcohol, but it can be even more crucial to do so when that person is a teen.

By getting your teen into an inpatient or outpatient rehab program right away, you can help prevent some of the more long-term risks of alcohol addiction.

High-Risk Behavior

Teens are still developing behaviorally and are far more likely to engage in risky and dangerous behaviors than adults with a substance use disorder. This is especially true when peer pressure is involved.

High-risk behaviors can include unsafe sex, reckless driving, or experimenting with other drugs and substances while using alcohol.

Negative Effects On Brain Development

Even at 16 years of age, a teenager’s brain is still developing in very important areas. Heavy drinking can interfere with this development, particularly in the frontal lobe and white matter areas.

Unfortunately, if the damage to the central nervous system is too severe, it will not be reversible even if the person stops drinking completely. This can result in areas of the brain being permanently stunted.

Increased Risk Of Alcohol Use Disorder Later In Life

Research has shown that teens who abuse alcohol are up to four times more likely to abuse alcohol as adults as well. They are also more likely to have legal trouble as a result of their drinking.

The longer a person lives with alcohol addiction, the more difficult it can be to get free of it. A person who starts drinking at an early age could find themselves in a cycle of addiction and relapse for many years of their life, isolating themselves from family members in the process.

What’s Included In Teen Alcohol Rehab Programs?

Many of the treatment services that you would find in a teen rehab program are the same or similar to the treatment options you would find in an adult alcohol rehab facility.

Medical Detox

Medically monitored alcohol detox allows a teen to safely and comfortably go through the process of alcohol withdrawal under the supervision of medical professionals.

Medical detox under supervision can be incredibly important with alcohol addiction, as severe alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.

It also makes it much less likely that a person will relapse, because detoxification programs provide treatments for withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient alcohol treatment for teens involves 24-hour monitoring from treatment providers while living onsite with other teens who also have addiction. Inpatient teen rehab provides access to many different forms of treatment options.

Teens have access to extensive therapy sessions and counseling, which often includes behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

They will also have opportunities for family therapy, which is especially important for teens still living at home.

If they have any co-occurring substance use disorders or mental health issues, they can also receive dual diagnosis care or mental health treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

After completing an inpatient program, your teen may continue their recovery with an outpatient program.

Treatment plans in outpatient settings may involve partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient programs, which each have varying degrees of intensity and commitment levels.

Many treatment facilities offer outpatient alcohol treatment as a form of aftercare for inpatient rehab.

Peer Support

Teens tend to be highly motivated by their peers, more so than adults, so peer support groups and group counseling in a substance abuse treatment program can be particularly helpful for them.

It is very important for a teenager to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, and finding mentors in group therapy who are a similar age as them can make a huge difference.

Continuing Education

One of the main factors that makes alcohol rehab for teens potentially more complicated than it is for adults is school.

It is important to not fall behind while in alcohol rehab or it may be extremely difficult to catch up afterwards.

Many teen treatment centers employ teachers or tutors to assist students as they continue their education. Other rehab centers allow for self-study or distance-learning and partner with educational institutions nearby.

Find Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one are ready to get started on the path toward long-term sobriety and wellbeing, give us a call at Bedrock Recovery Center.

Our evidence-based therapies are focused on early recovery and in helping you get back on track in your life, free from addiction and the struggles that go with it.

Our treatment specialists are standing by, give us a call today.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery?msclkid=ea3e66f5b39111ecbaff2ba3a5197b4d
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction?msclkid=ea3de436b39111ecadbe3a51ac6c6276
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/what-drug-addiction-treatment?msclkid=ea3e88aab39111ecab00ad9fc8eb6a75
  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/atod

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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