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Teen Matters

9 Red Flags for Alcoholism in Teens

December 31st, 2013

By Becki Bateman

If you are asked to close your eyes and picture an alcoholic, do you picture an old person on a street corner begging for money, a homeless person sleeping under a bridge or a piece of cardboard, or someone eating out of a dumpster? When you picture alcoholics, are they all male? Such images would not be entirely wrong; however, you would be picturing alcoholics in chronic or late-stage alcoholism, which is only three per cent of the alcoholic population. No one wakes up in the chronic stage of alcoholism; each and every drinker has had to go through the early and middle stages first.

Many people in the 97 per cent could be teenagers, yet this age group has not been adequately addressed. Teens in general have a tougher time identifying with alcoholism. They can give many reasons why they’re not alcoholics. They’re too young; they haven’t experienced loss of things such as jobs, families, or homes; they haven’t gotten kicked out of school or been in jail or prison. They only party on the weekends like everyone else does, or they “only have a couple” once in awhile.

Statistically, it’s roughly 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female today who are alcoholics. Younger and younger people are being treated for this affliction. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. It’ll take any age, color, ethnic group, or occupation into its grip. For example, did you envision any professionals such as a doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer, or clergyman? Name any occupation, and 10 per cent are alcoholics in one of the three stages. They are referred to as functioning alcoholics. Functioning alcoholics are people who do not show any clear signs of having a problem. They perform well while on the job, are rarely absent, and often are cited for exemplary work. 

There are signs that have been identified to help recognize alcoholism, nine signs in each of the three stages (early, middle, and late) for a total of twenty seven. How many teens would know any of them? More importantly, would they be able to cite specific examples in their own drinking patterns related to these signs?

The nine early signs:                                                                          

1.           Hide it

2.           Sneak it/steal it                                                                      

3.           Angry when someone tries to talk about the drinking

4.           Blame other people, places, and things

5.           Drink when something bad/good happens

6.           Drink until supply is gone

7.           Change in personality

8.           Uncomfortable when not available

9.           Blackouts


The nine middle signs:

      1.    Drink before a function

      2.    Lose interest in other things

      3.     Preoccupation with drinking

      4.     Fail repeatedly to keep promises and resolutions

      5.     Neglect personal care (hygiene/food/health)

      6.     Problems with family, friends, work, school, and money

      7.  Increased tolerance

      8.  Increased dependence

      9.  Blackouts—more frequent, longer in duration


The nine late signs:

1.             Loss of family, friends, and jobs

2.             Loss of willpower and control

3.             Obsession with use

4.             Physical and moral deterioration

5.             Decreased intolerance

6.             Drinking with people beneath him or alone

7.             Impaired thinking

8.             Geographical cures

9.             Mental health facilities, hospitals, jails, or death


Keep in mind alcoholism is the only disease known to man in which the longer you have it, the more it convinces you that you do not!  Its stereotype is such that most people do not recognize it until it is too late. Here is a suggestion:  Get your hands on any pamphlet, magazine article or book and read about this cunning, baffling, and mighty insidious disease.  Or with the computer and hundreds and hundreds of sites begin researching topics related to your personal interest.  You may be amazed at what you discover about this much misunderstood malady.


More than 30 years ago, Becki Bateman began her journey to recovery.  She is retired from a thirty-five-year career in teaching.  She has also attended many national conferences on alcoholism and teenage prevention. Volunteer work with teens over this span of time doing alcohol and drug awareness programs further sparked her interest in this area.    

Tags: health, Teens

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