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Teen Alcohol Abuse & Treatment Guide

Use of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21 is a significant health concern in the United States. Illicit use of alcohol by young people represents the most common form of substance abuse in children and teenagers, and it is an enormous safety and health risk for these individuals. The ramifications of underage alcohol use affects everyone in the country, whether individuals drink alcohol themselves or not. The issue is not merely a problem of the families who have children or teenagers who drink alcohol; it is a problem that concerns the entire nation.
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Underage Drinking

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides the most reliable estimates of alcohol use by young people in the United States.

Learn How to Help Your Teen with His or Her Drinking Problem

The Same but Different

It is important to understand how substance abuse and the substance use disorders present themselves in young people compared to adults. It is a mistaken notion to assume that children and adolescents are simply miniature versions of adults. Due to incomplete development of a child/adolescent’s brain, and the level of experience in individuals under the age of 21, they are different from adults across numerous factors.

teenager of alcoholic

helping an alcoholic son

Ramifications of Underage Alcohol Use

It should be clearly understood that use of alcohol by any individual under the age of 21 is a serious problem. In most states and local jurisdictions, use of alcohol by underage individuals is illegal, though there are a few exceptions.

Reasons for Alcohol Use

As they grow up, children often try to assert their independence and establish their identity. They try to do this in manners that challenge authority, particularly the close authority figures they have followed most of their lives, such as teachers and parents. Use of alcohol is one way to challenge this authority, but children and adolescents do not fully understand the risks on their health and behavior.

Signs of Teenage Alcoholism

In addition, APA designates some general factors that increase the risk of alcohol use and abuse, which apply to younger individuals.

The formal diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder in anyone can only be made by a licensed mental health clinician. The diagnostic criteria used to formally diagnose an alcohol use disorder are generally applicable across demographic factors; however, according to the book Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol, there are some signs of alcohol use and abuse that apply to younger individuals.

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Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of an alcohol abuse issue in a younger individual requires a program that follows the same general outline as treatment for alcohol use disorders in general, but is tailored for young people. There are some specialized considerations that should be made and implemented for younger individuals regarding the prevention of alcohol use. According to the books Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility and Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders among Young People: Progress and Possibilities, some of these considerations include:

  • Macro level interventions that include things like as enacting zero-tolerance laws for alcohol use in younger individuals, stronger sanctions for individuals who provide alcohol to younger people, making alcohol harder to get for younger people, and reducing the positive image of alcohol use by younger individuals in the media and other sources
  • School-based interventions that provide students with an understanding of the risks associated with using alcohol and why they need to abstain from its use
  • Family-based interventions that include setting and enforcing clear rules regarding alcohol use, and older family members practicing what they preach when it comes to drinking

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