Drug and alcohol use amongst teens is not a new issue. In fact before this series, we had previous blog posts on these topics, but the substances that are used to get high are constantly changing names and new things are being introduced, so I felt a series dedicated to the subject was warranted. In this post, the focus will be on alcohol, the most commonly used addictive substance among teens.
A whopping 71% of high school students have had alcohol before (not including a sip for religious purposes). A dangerous 8% have driven while under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol use may seem like a ‘normal’ right of passage into adolescence, but teen drinking is not only illegal, it can be deadly.
First, alcohol impairs judgement. Driving, biking, even walking while intoxicated is dangerous. Teens who are drinking at home aren’t ‘safe’ from the potential consequences of alcohol. Consider this: teens are more likely than adults to take part in binge drinking (having more than 5 drinks in a row). Most adults drink socially, but teens typically drink to feel drunk. Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning which can be deadly. Symptoms include: vomiting, confusion, and passing out. Anyone with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention.
Alcohol can affect breathing short term (if someone has alcohol poisoning, they can have very irregular breaths) and long term can have effects on the liver.
Aside from health consequences, teens who abuse alcohol may become socially isolated, depressed, and may start to use other drugs. If under the influence, they may make poor decisions around safety with regard to intimate encounters and driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Alcohol abuse can affect healthy friendships, school performance, and relationships with family members.
If you are concerned about alcohol use in your teen, tell your teen you’re worried and why. Then talk with your teen’s health care provider.