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What Happens When Teenagers Binge Drink and Abuse Alcohol?

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

What Happens When Teenagers Binge Drink and Abuse Alcohol? cover
Alcohol use among teens is largely prevalent because it’s not only socially acceptable but it is also socially encouraged for them to experiment with the substance. In fact, the legal drinking age was once set at 18 in some states and is still 16 in some countries. This goes to show how commonplace this behavior really is. As such, it’s critical as a parent to be alert of just how prevalent it is and what possible signs to look out for that may indicate when your teen is struggling with alcohol use. Doing so will allow you to intervene earlier before things get too out of hand.

Is Alcohol Abuse and Binge Drinking on the Rise for Teens?

A wide range of studies show that while alcohol abuse among adolescents has somewhat declined, it remains the most dangerous drug of abuse. A small decline also doesn’t change the fact that alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction is still extremely common among highschool age students. According to the results of a Monitoring the Future study from 2019, the rates of alcohol abuse in that year were 52.1% for highschool seniors, 37.7% for 10th graders, and slightly under 20% for 8th graders. This means that even middle schoolers have a one in five likelihood of abusing alcohol. Perhaps of more concern, however, is the rate of binge drinking. Binge drinking is a specific approach to alcohol abuse that is by far the most dangerous – and the most addictive. The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming 5 or more drinks in a drinking session for men or 4 or more drinks in a session for women. The rates of binge drinking among teens were also high in 2019, with 14.4% of 8th graders reporting binge drinking, 8.5% of 10th graders also binge drinking, and just under 4% of 8th graders regularly binge drinking.

What Are The Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse in Teens?

There are several signs that a teen may be abusing drugs and/or alcohol, but they aren’t always easy to spot. By the time a teenager is probably using alcohol heavily, it’s more likely that you won’t catch them, either. Many of these signs can be symptoms of normal teenage behavior, so keep in mind that there might be something serious happening if one or more of these behaviors is present:
  • Worsened academic performance, ranging from absenteeism to significantly lowered grades
  • Being disciplined or punished more at school
  • Having problems with the law or police
  • Discovering alcohol in your child’s room
  • Random changes in mood, including irritability, rapid temper outburst, and significant defensiveness when confronted about odd behavior
  • Not being interested in hobbies, friends, or activities that your teen used to enjoy
  • Having no energy, seeming indifferent or apathetic, or saying that nothing matters
  • Concerning physical or mental changes, such as poor concentration, slurred speech, lack of concentration, or memory lapses
  • Changing friend groups – especially when the new friends seem dangerous or shady
  • Hiding from family members or keeping secrets

Parents talk to their son about drug and alcohol use

What Do You Do About Alcoholism in Teens

First and foremost, it’s best to always consult with a medical professional before attempting to detox due to alcoholism. Alcoholics can undergo withdrawal symptoms of life-threatening severity, and thus detoxification may be needed. Some people exhibit different symptoms when stopping their consumption of alcohol. Depending on a few factors like the mental state of the user, physical condition, and other things alike, a person may be able to stop consuming alcohol without enrolling in a detox program – and without having any physical withdrawals or side effects. In fact, many people do not even realize they were dependent on alcohol in the first place! Studies show that alcohol withdrawal can show up differently in teens than it does in mature adults, which can make the quitting process unique as well. Regardless of how one physically stops using alcohol, it’s important that one learns more about addiction and develops new coping skills. Reaching this understanding will allow one to avoid relapse from occurring again in the future. Once your teen has completed detoxification, they usually move onto a substance use program where they are provided with group and individual therapy as well as other activities to help them address and improve their situation regarding staying sober. These services might be arranged for in a sober living home. The substance program that works best for your teen will depend on the individual and what kind of help they need beyond simply being removed from the substance itself. So it’s important to reach out and find out what kind of assistance you can get both medically and socially to provide the right treatment environment for your child.

How Do I Find the Best Teen Rehab Program and Sober Living Homes in Los Angeles?

Addiction is an incredibly difficult problem to face. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of love to help your child get clean. One way you can help is by having open and honest dialogue with them about the situation in hopes to lead them towards recovery. Let them know that you will always be there for support, no matter how bad things may get, so they can trust that their health and well-being is their number one priority. The important thing to remember is to not push them. Even when they appear in need of treatment, if they aren’t ready it could end up doing more harm than good. The best thing you can do at this crucial moment is point them in the direction of a trusted support system and environment here at Design for Recovery. Design for Recovery has been helping men stay sober for years. We offer a helpful environment with experienced staff whose passion is to help those with addiction concerns. We provide services that promote staying sober and cover groups, therapy, accountability, and exploring sober activities! When you come to our structured sober living home, you are going to meet many new people in a safe and comfortable environment. By the time you leave, you will have connections that will last for life, and the tools you need to continue your sobriety. Our staff is always ready to answer questions or provide whatever assistance is necessary. To learn more about how we can help, please feel free to contact us at your convenience or learn more at our alcohol abuse resources page.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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