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An alcohol problem means having unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. Alcohol misuse can harm your teen and may cause your teen to harm others.
Your teen may think a drink or two is okay, even if it is illegal. But teens who drink are more likely to develop an alcohol problem than people who start drinking later in life.
Teens who continue to misuse alcohol may develop a strong need, or craving, for alcohol, and it may get harder to say "no" to drinking. Your teen may begin to find alcohol more fun than anything else. Or your teen may want to stop drinking but can't. He or she may become dependent on alcohol.
If your teen becomes dependent, then alcohol controls his or her life. Your teen may continue to drink even though it can harm relationships, lead to trouble with the law, and/or cause physical problems.
Teens may drink alcohol for many reasons. They may want to:
Alcohol use affects the brain and causes changes in your teen's alertness, perception, movement, judgment, and attention. These changes may make your teen more likely to:
You may worry that your teen is drinking if he or she becomes withdrawn or negative. But remember that these behaviours are common for teens. Don't accuse your teen unfairly. Try to discover why your teen's behaviour has changed by telling him or her that you are concerned.
Look for a pattern or a number of changes. Your teen may have an alcohol problem if he or she:
You can teach your teen these ways to say "no" if he or she is offered a drink.
Treatment depends on how bad your teen's alcohol problem is. Some teens are able to stop drinking with help from a school alcohol education program or a counsellor. Treatment also can include group therapy. Teens who are dependent on alcohol may need medical treatment and may need to stay in a hospital or treatment centre.
Treatment focuses on more than alcohol. It also helps your teen cope with the anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment that often happen when a person tries to stop drinking.
Treatment also looks at other parts of your teen's life, like relationships with friends and family, school and work, medical problems, and living situation. It helps you and your teen find and manage problems. Treatment helps your teen take control of life so that he or she doesn't have to depend on alcohol.
An alcohol problem affects the whole family. Family counselling often is part of treatment.
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Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
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