According to the Rand Corporation, by the time they are seniors, almost all high school students in the United States will have tried alcohol, and some of those teens drink with some regularity. Adolescence marks a critical period in the brain’s development, so it is vital that teens abusing drugs and alcohol be treated as early as possible.
Teen binge drinking can result in psychological and physical issues that may be mistaken as part of growing up, rather than indicators of an addiction. Binge drinking among this age group has been a serious problem for decades, and it is important that teens understand the possible consequences of this addiction and know the symptoms that indicate a possible addiction problem. If you are concerned about alcohol addiction or suspect someone close to you may be abusing alcohol, there are teen binge drinking treatment centers available to help.
Harmful Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse
There are several long-term and short-term physical side effects that can occur from teen binge drinking that may be irreversible. Consuming alcohol in large amounts or using alcohol frequently can cause neurological damage. When this neurological damage occurs during adolescence, it can affect attention span, concentration, and the ability to understand and use information. This occurs because the brain is in a critical developmental stage, and the damage that is done to the nerve tissue at this stage can be permanent.
Long-term side effects of prolonged and frequent teen binge drinking may include:
- Stomach ulcers
- Liver problems
- Neurological issues
- Cardiovascular disease
There can also be side effects resulting from short-term teen binge drinking. These include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired breathing
- Alcohol poisoning
Warning Signs of Alcoholism in Teens
Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you or someone close to you may have a problem with teen binge drinking. There are several warning signs that are commonly seen with teen alcohol abuse, which can help identify whether or not you or another teen has a drinking problem.
Some of these warning signs may include:
- Excessive partying
- Late nights
- Frequent intoxication
- Needing alcohol to have a good time
- Frequently ill (hangovers)
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings
- Blackouts (unable to recall your actions while intoxicated)
Developing a Physical and Psychological Addiction
Teen binge drinking can result in a physical and psychological addiction to alcohol. But what does this mean, and how do you differentiate between abuse and addiction?
Teen alcohol addiction and abuse are very similar in definition, but there is a slight difference. You can abuse alcohol and experience some of the side effects of an alcohol addiction without being addicted to it. For example, if a teen drinks to become intoxicated once, he may be abusing alcohol and feel ill after using it, but that abuse is not yet an addiction. An addiction is when a person can no longer control whether or not he uses alcohol. Someone who is addicted to alcohol has grown so used to using it that he will continue consuming alcohol despite the negative consequences experienced. An addiction can be physical, psychological or both.
If you are physically addicted to a substance, it means that your body is dependent on the use of that substance. In addition to that, your body builds a tolerance to alcohol the longer you drink, so you need to drink larger quantities of alcohol or drink more frequently to achieve the same effects. If a teen is addicted to alcohol and her body doesn’t receive the dose it needs, then withdrawal symptoms occur. These commonly include:
- Tremors (shakes)
With prolonged use, these symptoms can become more severe.
When you form a psychological addiction to alcohol, the cravings become psychological and emotional. You may feel an intense desire to use alcohol, even to the point of lying or stealing to get it.
The difference between teen alcohol abuse and teen alcohol addiction lies in why the teen uses. A person is no longer simply abusing alcohol when he or she isn’t trying to have fun or experience temporary intoxication. The teen has become dependent on it. An addicted person no longer feels that he has a choice in using alcohol, and his life has begun to center around drinking or finding ways to drink.
How to Tell if Your Teen is Binge Drinking
Aside from the obvious cravings that teens experience when addicted to alcohol, there are several other signs that suggest teen binge drinking and alcohol abuse is present. These may include:
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Mood changes
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Shaky or ill feelings when trying to stop drinking alcohol
- Requiring more alcohol to achieve the same effect
- Using alcohol as a way to relax or forget problems
- Being secretive with family or friends
- Changes in social behaviors (withdrawal, isolation)
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Problems at school
- Changes in friends
- Stealing and/or lying
- Spending increasing amounts of time thinking about how to obtain alcohol
What Options are Available for Treatment?
If you or someone you know is drinking heavily, or you suspect an addiction to alcohol is present, seek help today. Binge drinking in adolescence often leads to alcohol addiction, which requires medical treatment to ensure long-term recovery. There are teen binge drinking treatment centers that can provide detox and treatment in the form of rehabilitation and counseling services.
If you think that you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, asking for help is often the first step toward recovery. Many people, adults included, believe that they can quit drinking on their own, but addiction is an illness that requires medical treatment. If you are looking for advice about teen binge drinking, we can help.