According to the CDC, alcohol is the most widely used and abused drug by youth in the United States.
In addition, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience school, social, physical and legal problems. There is also a higher risk for physical and sexual assault as well as suicide and homicide. Alcohol abuse can even cause memory problems and changes in brain development that have lifelong effects.
How to know if you or someone you know has a problem…
Isolation and loss of interest. Often people who are consumed by alcohol will lose interest in other areas of their life- even things that they once loved may fall by the wayside. They may stop attending school, participating in extracurricular activities, hanging out with close friends or family.
Mood swings. Alcohol use and withdrawal can cause changes in mood, including depression, sadness, anger and outbursts of rage can be common.
Physical symptoms. Skin might appear blotchy and red, eyes can appear bloodshot. They might also shake; have slurred speech or difficulty maintaining balance.
Blackouts. This can be the result of consuming large amounts of alcohol. Individuals may not recall certain events or even portions of time.
Chugging and Binge Drinking. Chugging, power drinking or binge drinking is consuming several drinks very quickly in a effort to get drunk.
Secret drinking or making excuses to drink. Someone who has a problem might hide their drinking from others or they may drink alone or before going out. They may also look for excuses to drink.
Hiding. Secret drinkers will often hide their alcohol in places like the bathroom, clothes drawers, and garage or even in trash and recycling bins.
Being late or not showing up. Often drinkers will be absent for periods of time without explanation or even miss events.
Missing valuables and prized possessions. Purchasing alcohol can become expensive and sometimes individuals will sell valuable items or even steal valuables from loved ones to sell, in order to buy alcohol.
What to do if you or someone you know has a problem…
Know the facts. Knowing the risks and consequences of alcohol and drugs can make it easier to say no and it can help you spot someone who might be under the influence.
Check yourself out! Make sure you aren’t trying to mask a deeper issue by using drugs or alcohol. Remember that stress, previous trauma and mental health issues can be struggles that people mask by using alcohol or drugs.
Learn how to say no! Refusing to use alcohol and drugs when offered by a friend can be difficult. Practice saying no, suggest doing something else or even try hanging out with some new people!
Get help. If you do think you have a problem or know someone who does, get some support! Think about a trusted adult you can tell who will be able to help- like a parent, teacher, guidance counselor or coach. You can also check out the resources on TeenCentral’s Help page for a list!
In an emergency…
Alcohol poisoning happens when people drink too much and it can be fatal. When has alcohol poisoning, their body’s involuntary reflexes are affected. This includes breathing and the gag reflex. A person with alcohol poisoning can gag on their vomit or stop breathing. If you think someone has alcohol poisoning, do not wait- call 911 immediately.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:
- extreme confusion
- inability to be awakened
- slow or irregular breathing
- low body temperature
- bluish or pale skin
Some facts about drinking and driving…
According to the CDC, 54% of teens in high school drink and drive- this has decreased by more than half since 1991.
However, one in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.
In fact, 85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also say they binge drank (defined as having 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours).
1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had some alcohol in their system in 2010. Most of these drivers (81%) had BACs* higher than the legal limit for adults.
And young drivers (ages 16-20) are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% than when they have not been drinking.
What you can do…
Make safe driving a habit! Be sure to drive safely in all ways, obey the speed limit, don’t text and drive and wearing a seatbelt.
Never drink and drive. Think of the consequences. Being caught drinking and driving comes with the loss of your license, legal charges, fines and potentially jail time. Drinking and driving-related accidents can cause serious injury or death to those driving, riding as passengers and in other vehicles. Don’t risk your life or the lives of others.
Refuse to ride with others who have been drinking. Say no and encourage others to do the same.
Don’t let friends drink and drive. Options for prevention can include staying sober (!!), taking keys away from someone who has been drinking or giving them a safe spot to sleep it off.
At the end of the day, make a good choice. If you or someone you know has been drinking and cannot drive- don’t. Opt to call a safe adult who can give you a ride or call a cab. Drinking and driving should never be the choice.