Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among teenagers in the United States. Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,500 deaths among underage youth each year, and costs the U.S. $24 billion each year on average and although drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States with more than 90% of this alcohol consumed in the form of binge drinking. Alcohol is known to lessen inhibitions resulting in risky and even illegal behaviors among teenagers potentially leading to violence, drug abuse, and incarceration.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in teens
Teens are just as vulnerable to withdrawing from alcohol as their adult counterparts. The physical signs and symptoms are the same in both teenagers and adults however since teenagers are at a vulnerable stage in their life, they may be at a higher risk for emotional and mental consequences associated with alcohol withdrawal. Teenager’s brains are still developing, and therefore, they are at a higher risk of memory loss and risk-taking behaviors that could put their lives in jeopardy. The following are signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in teens:
- Social isolation and withdrawal
- Poor academic performance
- Experimenting with other substances
- Rapidly changing moods
- Increased sexual promiscuity
- Engaging in illegal behavior
- Racing heart
- Elevated blood pressure
Treatment for alcohol withdrawal among teens requires close monitoring of signs and symptoms in a professional treatment setting with or without the addition of medications to help ease the withdrawal side effects. Long term treatment consists of psychotherapy and support from friends and family.
Consequences associated with alcohol addiction in teenagers
Addiction is a psychological condition affecting the brain that is characterized by compulsive drug and alcohol-seeking behavior. Chronic drug and alcohol use changes the brain chemistry and communication systems by rewiring the reward and pleasure pathways in the brain, creating more intense cravings for these illicit substances rather than intrinsic rewards. Addiction results in compulsive and harmful behaviors that can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, including their occupation, relationships, and home life. The following are known consequences of alcohol addiction among teenagers
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social issues, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
- Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
- Disruption of healthy growth and sexual development.
- Physical and sexual assault.
- Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
- Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls and drowning.
- Memory problems.
- Abuse of other drugs.
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
- Death from alcohol poisoning.
Signs and symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bloodshot eyes
- Flushed face
- Violent or aggressive outbursts
- Swaying, staggering or stumbling
- Excessive perspiration
- Alcohol on breath
- A blank or dazed look
Treatment for alcohol use disorder in teens
Alcohol treatment for teens includes both a pharmacological approach and a psychotherapy approach. Medications are used to prevent cravings associated with alcohol, to lessen or prevent withdrawal effects associated with alcohol and to induce unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed.
Abused substance among teenagers, in this case, alcohol, can be treated through a psychotherapy approach. A couple of mainstays for this approach include Behavioral therapy, family-based approaches, and recovery support systems such as Assertive Continuing Care, Mutual Help Groups, Peer Recovery Support Services, and Recovery High schools. Behavioral therapy focuses on identifying the negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions, driving the teen to use alcohol and use positive behavior approaches, coping skills, and problem-solving techniques to prevent these thoughts and negative behaviors. Family therapy approaches are used to provide education to the family as a unit about addiction and focus on family stressors and negative behaviors that may be present triggers for the teen’s behavior.