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If a teen has alcohol use disorder, it means that they drink alcohol even though it's causing harm to themselves or others.
Alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe. The more symptoms of this disorder your teen has, the more severe it may be. Teens who have it may find it hard to control their use of alcohol.
Teens who have this disorder may argue with others about how much they're drinking. Their schoolwork or job may be affected because of drinking. They may drink when it's dangerous or illegal, such as when they drive. Or they may engage in unsafe sex. This can lead to pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Their drinking may increase their risk of getting hurt or being in a car crash.
Teens may also have a strong need, or craving, to drink and feel like they must drink just to get by. It may get harder for your teen to say "no" to drinking. Your teen may start to find alcohol more fun than anything else. Or your teen may want to stop drinking but can't. Your teen's body may get used to alcohol. This is called physical dependence.
Teens may think that a drink or two is okay, even if it's illegal. Or they may think that it's okay if they're only drinking on the weekends. They may even think that binge drinking is okay. But teens who drink are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than people who start drinking later in life.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may cause health problems. These problems may include high blood pressure, liver problems, and problems with digestion.
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You may worry that your teen is drinking if your teen becomes withdrawn or negative.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 your teen that you are concerned.
Look for a pattern or a number of changes. Your teen may be drinking alcohol if your teen:
You can teach your teen these ways to say no if your teen is offered a drink.
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 have moderate to severe alcohol use disorder may need medical treatment. They 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 they don't have to depend on alcohol.
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Adaptation Date: 8/3/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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