The National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2016 and 2017 revealed that more than one in four teens have used alcohol in their lifetime. About ten percent of individuals age twelve to 17 admit to drinking in the past month. More than half of these teens who drink monthly engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking is characterized by consuming four or more alcoholic drinks in a two hour period. This high level of drinking can lead to severe intoxication, blackouts, alcohol poisoning and death. In 2018, almost 20 percent of underage Texans admit to drinking in the past month. In one year, 156 fatalities occurred with underage drivers who had been drinking. This number makes up a third of all fatal crashes involving underage drivers. Underage drinking is a problem in Texas, and thankfully programs have been developed to help deter young people from drinking. There are also existing treatment options for those teens in need of alcohol use and addiction rehabilitation.
Underage Drinking And The Developing Brain
Research has shown that young people are at higher risk of alcohol use if they are more impulsive, sensation seeking, and struggle with information processing tasks. The brains of these individuals also respond differently during reward, inhibition, working memory and while at rest. [inline_cta_one] After introducing alcohol during adolescent or teenage years, the overall cognitive function seems to be impaired, including decreases in IQ. Heavy alcohol consumption (a form of binge drinking) actually affects the physical structure of the brain, resulting in decreases in gray matter. Recent studies indicate that underage drinking has a substantial negative impact on brain development and brain structure. These impairments can be permanent, especially if the youth continues to use alcohol.
Health Risks And Underage Drinking
Significant health risks occur with underage drinking. Because the brain has not fully developed, young people don’t typically understand all of the consequences associated with abusing drugs and alcohol. Underage drinking puts everyone at risk. When a teen is intoxicated, they may make decisions that not only harm them, but can result in harm to others, damage to property and even death. In addition to the previously mentioned risk of permanent brain damage, some health risks connected to underage drinking are:
- car crashes
- risky sexual activity
- sexual assaults
- accidents (such as falls or drowning)
- unwanted pregnancy
- alcohol poisoning
- alcohol addiction
Risks Associated With Underage Drinking
Teens that use alcohol have increased risks that are directly associated with alcohol consumption, use, and addiction. Specifically, 27 percent of teens who use alcohol end up developing a severe alcohol addiction within ten years of their first drink. Some other factors that may increase the probability of a young person abusing alcohol include:
The chances of alcohol use are much higher when the teen is surrounded by other individuals who drink heavily. Young people may interpret the drinking of friends or family as acceptable, and decide to start drinking at an early age.
When a teen or adolescent has a parent or other close relative that also has a drinking problem, they are at higher risk for developing one themselves. In some cases, they are four times as likely to develop a drinking problem when family members also have a problem.
Being a teenager can be difficult, as young people seek a place they belong they may make attempts to fit in. If they think alcohol makes them seem ‘cool’ they may start to consume large amounts of alcohol to increase social interactions and sense of belonging.
Signs Of Teenage Alcohol Use
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol use in teens is not always easy. Teenagers are often experiencing hormonal changes, stressors from school, relationship issues or feeling overwhelmed with the demands of being a teen. Some of the warning signs of alcohol use can also be linked to other problems, but if a teen is showing these signs, a closer look may be warranted:
- always tired
- a decline in grades or study habits
- extracurricular involvement decrease
- change in weight
- looking messy or disheveled
- bizarre or erratic behavior
- avoiding time with family
- changes in friends, relationship, or peers
- increased disrespectful behavior
- combative towards authority
There are other issues that could result in a number of these signs, including child abuse, sexual assault, depression, additional mental health issues and issues directly related to the change in behavior. While all are a cause for concern, these signs do not accurately diagnose an alcohol use or addiction. Only an assessment can do that.
Treatment Options For Underage Alcohol Addiction
Texas has many preventative programs that exist in an attempt to discourage adolescents and teens from starting to drink. While this can be effective, it can be less helpful for those that are already drinking. Parents struggle to find a solution for their teen who is struggling with a drinking problem. It is always suggested that limiting access to alcohol or places where alcohol is accessible is a good idea when it comes to an underage person. If there is no alcohol in the house, a teen can’t drink it. If a teen is not allowed to go to a friend’s house that is unsupervised, they cannot drink there. But then what? What if there is a need for rehab for alcoholic? Detoxification is recommended for those who are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, followed by a substance use program that includes therapy, education, aftercare, and relapse prevention. Young people often benefit from specialized substance use treatment due to the increased risk-taking behaviors, issues with authority and potential emotional instability. Having specially trained staff that understands the uniqueness of teen addiction can help outcomes. Many youth-oriented substance use treatment locations are flexible, understanding that many of these individuals are still in school or come from hard places where they are not comfortable with the intensity of a full inpatient program. There are inpatient and outpatient options, partial hospitalization and day programs as well. Young people find themselves in stages of self-discovery and development. Allowing them to explore options such as yoga, music, art or wilderness interventions in a therapeutic environment can help them gain freedom from addiction. These experiences can also heal all areas affected by addiction. With all the options available to help young people who are struggling with alcohol addiction, the right fit may feel hard to find. Contact us today and allow us to use our resources to find a facility in Texas that meets the needs of your family.