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Teen Matters

Teen Addiction, Alcohol and Signs of Abuse

March 15th, 2013

By: Dr. Rick Meeves

Most teenagers experiment with alcohol but the relationship isn’t predictable and may go in any number of directions.  They may be not interested in alcohol at all, they may be curious about it, they may try it, or they may start drinking. If there are parental concerns about a teen abusing alcohol, the first steps often start with the knowledge that a problem exists.

Warning signs a teen is abusing alcohol:

  • Sudden change in attitude
  • Issues at school, or drop in academic performance
  • Truancy
  • Withdrawal, isolation or depression
  • New friends
  • Lack of interest in anything besides hanging out with friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or sports
  • Increased secrecy about possessions, activities or whereabouts
  • Aggressive, rebellious behavior
  • Change in sleeping and or eating habits
  • Deteriorating family relationships
  • New or increased use of mouthwash or mints to mask alcohol smell
  • Evidence of alcohol – empty bottles, etc.
  • Cash flow problems
  • Alcohol or money goes missing from your home

Obviously, not all of these signs point specifically to an abuse of alcohol, but these signs often give a strong suspicion that a teen is drinking inappropriately and parents should err on the side of caution and take it seriously.

Talk openly with your teen about your concerns, and ask for help from a pediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist if you need to. Get a professional assessment to find out what is going on; screening for drugs or alcohol may be in order.

Put an emphasis on safety and weigh the following information carefully:

• Teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to have unsafe sex than those who do not drink

• Teens who drink heavily are three times more likely to try and hurt themselves (self-harm, suicide, etc.) than those who don’t drink

• Alcohol is a gateway drug – those who abuse it are more likely to go on to abuse other drugs. Keep a close eye on a teen’s behaviour and his or her relationship with alcohol.

Dr. Rick Meeves is the Director of Adolescent Clinical Services at CRC Health Group. For more information regarding teens and substance abuse, go to:

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