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Thursday, February 4, 2021

Adolescent Drinking Could Cause Severe Problems in the Future

It may seem unlikely to you that your child could have a drinking problem, but young adults are vulnerable to developing substance misuse issues – and when adolescents get addicted to alcohol, the consequences are often dire. What makes adolescence such a sensitive time, and is there anything you can do to prevent your teen from heading down a self-destructive path?

Adolescence Is a Critical Time for Preventing Substance Abuse

The earlier teens begin experimenting with adolescent drinking, the higher the chances they will develop a substance misuse disorder later in life. Drugs rewire the brain’s reward pathways, which can lead to addiction and other behavioral health problems. If you’re a teen’s parent or guardian, you have a pivotal part to play in reducing their risk of developing a drinking problem and the various mental and physical health issues that accompany it.

For teens and adults alike, risk of alcohol abuse increases sharply during stressful circumstances. Many teenagers undergo tumultuous life events like moving, having their parents get divorced or starting at a new school. When children graduate from middle school to high school, they may face a dizzying new array of life challenges, including unfamiliar social and academic situations. For many students, this transition coincides with the time they initially get exposed to underaged drinking.

Substance Use Interferes With Teen Brain Development

During adolescence, many teens flirt with risky behavior as they begin testing their boundaries and accepting more responsibilities at home and school. The desire to have new experiences and fit in socially is healthy, but it may also make teenagers more susceptible to adolescent drinking. No matter how responsible you think your teenager is, research has shown that the rational, decision-making part of the brain does not fully mature until around age 25. An adolescent’s ability to display good judgment might go by the wayside when friends pressure them to drink in social settings.

Because teens’ brains are still developing, adolescent drinking has a higher potential to disrupt brain function in areas that play essential roles in memory, learning, judgment and behavior, which could cause severe problems later in life. It’s not entirely surprising that teens who drink often struggle at home and academically, and can develop mental health problems such as depression at greater rates.

Since alcohol lowers inhibitions, adolescent drinking could also lead teens to do illegal or dangerous things like:
  • Driving under the influence
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Experimenting with harder drugs
  • Skipping school or work
These risks could have a ripple effect that leads to ramifications like sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, a criminal record, a worsening substance use disorder, job loss or expulsion from school.

What Can You Do About Adolescent Drinking?

As children transition into young adulthood, they may start acting secretive or stop doing previously enjoyable hobbies. While these are expected parts of adolescence, they could also be warning signs of a teen’s struggle with addiction. Keep the lines of communication open, and ensure your child knows they can come to you with any questions or concerns. You may want to role-play a few scenarios to give them practice in politely turning down a friend who offers them a drink.

If you’re concerned that your child may have a substance use disorder or a mental health challenge such as anxiety or depression, ask your family doctor. You may also want to research young adult addiction treatment facilities like Hope Academy to get your teen the specialized help they need to avoid severe problems in the future. Contact us today to learn more about what we provide.
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