It’s not abnormal for teens to be private about their interests, their friends and their hobbies. Sometimes, though, this secrecy is hiding something more serious— alcohol addiction.
If you’re worried that a young person in your life may be at risk for substance dependence, there are ways you can intervene. Here are five steps for preventing teen alcohol addiction.
Understanding alcohol addiction
It can be unsettling to know that your child or a young person you care about has started drinking under the legal age limit. While drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and should be discouraged, it’s also important to know that consuming alcohol doesn’t always equal addiction.
Alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, alcohol withdrawal and many other terms are used to describe a condition in which an individual has developed a tolerance to alcohol to the point where related behaviors impair daily living, and the person will feel an uncontrollable urge to drink.
Decades ago, it was believed that addictions developed due to a moral flaw, and many parents and caregivers may still have this residual mindset when it comes to alcohol.
Preventing teen alcohol addiction
1. Understand the part you have to play
There are two keys to understanding your role when it comes to preventing teen addiction. The first: it’s never your responsibility, or your fault, when someone you care about develops a dependency on substances. While there may be external pressure, the first few uses of drugs or alcohol are an individual’s choice.
It’s essential that you don’t blame yourself, but it’s also important that you recognize your role in prevention. There are measures you can take to decrease the chance that your teen encounters alcohol in the first place and has the skills to say no if the challenge arises.
2. Limit access
Even from an early age, it’s crucial for parents, caregivers and other adults in a child’s life to limit access to alcohol. Based on a survey of 43,000 people, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that early drinking is linked to higher rates of alcoholism in adulthood.
In fact, among those studied who struggle with alcoholism, 47 percent had already developed an alcohol use disorder by the age of 21. So while permitting a few drinks at home before the age of 21 may feel permissible, it’s best to delay access to alcohol to prevent potentially drastic consequences.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends talking to your children about alcohol and its negative effects at an early age— even as early as nine years old.
When you teach your child about the reality of substance addiction, they have the information they need to turn down drugs or alcohol should the occasion arise. Chat about the dangers of drinking, too, such as alcohol poisoning, drinking and driving, damage to relationships and job loss.
4. Enforce rules
One of the best tips for preventing teen alcohol addiction is to enforce the standards you set for your kids. When you make it clear that underage drinking will not be tolerated (any amount in any setting), they’re more likely to get the whole picture.
This means having established consequences should drinking be noticed. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t mean kids will be extra sneaky. It means they’ll know you’re serious.
5. Show that you care
Your kid will want to know the reason why you’re trying to prevent teen addiction. If it’s simply to avoid legal trouble, you’ll surely lose their attention. At the heart of it, your child wants to see that you care about their safety and overall well being, and that’s the motivation behind your stance.
Show you care about every area of your child’s life. Put in the effort to learn about your teen’s passions and hobbies, share quality time doing activities together and get to know his or her friends. Being clued into your teen’s life will make it easier to notice drinking behaviors, too.
Am I too late?
If you’re worried that a young person in your life is already experiencing teen alcohol addiction, it’s not too late to intervene. At this stage, your best bet is to start professional treatment. Even if your kid isn’t seeking treatment yet, many rehab centers can work with you to get him or her on board.
It’s never too late to help someone overcome an addiction. If you’re ready to reach out for help, take a self-assessment or access recovery resources, contact us today 610-644-6464.