Alcoholism can be defined as a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that interferes with normal everyday life interactions, such as relationships with family and friends, grades, and other skills. Teenage alcoholism is alcoholism that is developed during the teenage years. Alcoholism during these years is particularly of concern because teenagers are not yet mature physically or emotionally. Because alcoholism can have an impact on adults' health and decision-making processes, the impact of alcohol and alcoholism on adolescents might be thought of as even more severe.
According to the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 80 percent of all adults who are being treated for alcoholism started to drink before they were 18 years old. In addition, 25.6 percent of all high school students started to drink before they were 13 years old. Children who start to drink before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop problems with alcohol than people who start to drink at 21 or later. Teenagers and children are less likely to drink if they have a strong relationship with their parents or guardians.
Adolescents who drink or who suffer from teenage alcoholism may experience shorter attention spans. This can result in poorer grades at school. In addition, drinking alcohol can be an effort to "self-treat" other emotional problems, such as depression or bipolar condition. Because drinking alcohol can loosen inhibitions, teenage drinkers are more likely to have sex, including unprotected sex.
In addition to getting lower grades, symptoms of teenage alcoholism can include lying, breaking curfew, and changing friends. A teenage alcoholic may drink his parents' alcohol and fill the bottles with water, may steal, or may display personality changes. If teenagers drink to the point of getting alcohol poisoning, their breath may slow, they may lose consciousness, they may fall into a coma, and they may die. If a parent suspects a child has alcohol poisoning, the child should be taken to a hospital for emergency treatment immediately.
A child who is diagnosed with teenage alcoholism can be treated in a number of different manners. Physicians may prescribe drugs to help reduce or prevent cravings for alcohol. The teenager may need to go through individual or group counseling. Twelve-step programs may also be way to stay sober. Family members may also need psychological counseling to learn new behaviors and methods to help keep the teenager sober.