10 Telltale Signs That Your Teen Has a Problem with Alcohol

Has your teen’s behavior changed dramatically recently? Are you worried that they might have a problem with alcohol? While some normal teenage experimentation with drinking isn’t the end of the world, it’s important to be aware of the signs that something more serious is going on.

Teenagers might develop a problem with alcohol as a way to self-medicate mental issues, to deal with problems in the family, or because friends are pressuring them into drinking. Early intervention is key if you want to stop the issue from developing into a full-blown addiction, and the signs below are a clear indication that something’s wrong.

1. Becoming Secretive and Withdrawn

It’s not unusual for teens to become sullen and moody, but if your teen is intensely secretive then there might be something else going on. Does your child stay out for hours and then go straight to their room? There’s a risk they’re avoiding you because they’ve been drinking. Have they started locking their bedroom door more often? They might be drinking at home and trying to steer clear of the rest of the family.

2. Spending Time with a New Friendship Group

Has your child suddenly dropped their old friends and started hanging out with a new crowd? While it’s normal for friendships to change, this can be a cause for concern when combined with other items in this list.

Is your teen out later than they should be with their new friends? Are they reluctant to tell you who they’re spending time with? There’s a risk that they’ve fallen in with friends who are encouraging them to drink and don’t want you to find out.

3. Finding Watered down Bottles of Alcohol

When teens steal alcohol, it might not be as obvious as seeing bottles go missing. Instead, they may take alcohol from bottles, then top them back up with water to try and disguise what they’ve done. Keeping alcohol in a locked cabinet is a simple way to put a stop to this kind of behavior, but it’s important to confront your teen at the same time.

4. Money or Other Possessions Are Going Missing

Most teenagers don’t have a huge allowance to spend on alcohol. However, if they’re struggling with addiction they may resort to stealing money or selling items from around the house to buy more alcohol. If you’ve noticed things going missing and your teen isn’t behaving like themselves, there’s a good chance that something is going on.

5. Slurred Speech and Poor Coordination

It might sound obvious, but looking for the classic signs of drunkenness, like slurred speed and poor coordination, is a simple way to get to the bottom of your teen’s behavior. If your child has been drinking regularly for a while, they might have gotten good at hiding it, so be vigilant. Some teens might pretend to be joking around in order to hide their inebriation.

6. Sudden Drop in Grades or Attendance at School

When a teen is struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s highly likely to affect their grades. A previously straight-A student might start missing classes, failing exams, or hiding bad report cards from you. They could be skipping school to drink, struggling to concentrate because of their problem, or avoiding school friends to hang out with a different crowd. Keep communication with your child’s school open and honest – they might have key details to help you work out what’s going on.

7. Unexplained Bruises or Other Injuries

When teens drink regularly, there’s a good chance they’ll hurt themselves – either by falling over or by taking unnecessary risks. If you’ve noticed cuts, scrapes or bruises that your teen can’t explain, there’s a chance they’re trying to hide a drinking problem. Don’t jump to conclusions, but keep an eye out for other signs.

8. Decreased Personal Hygiene

A teen who has an alcohol problem might lose interest in their personal hygiene and appearance. This could mean forgetting to shower, not bothering to wash clothes, and failing to use deodorant. Teens who previously spent hours on their clothes, hair, and makeup might be content looking like they’ve just woken up. Look out for changes in your teen’s usual level of hygiene.

9. Increase in Arguments and Fights

Alcohol addiction can make teens angry, irritable, and oversensitive. Small issues, like asking them to do chores, might develop into full-blown arguments, leaving everyone feeling hurt and confused. If your teen seems to be ready to snap at you every second of the day, they might have an issue – particularly if they were easy to get along with in the past.

10. Losing Interest in Old Hobbies

When a teen has a serious problem with alcohol, there’s a good chance they’ll lose interest in all their other hobbies. You might notice them giving up sports, dropping extracurricular activities, and losing interest in family events they used to enjoy. Depression and alcohol addiction often go hand in hand, and this kind of apathy is a clear sign that your teen is unhappy.

The issue of alcohol abuse in America doesn’t only affect adults, and it’s important to remain vigilant if you think your teen might have a problem. Look out for the warning signs above and keep communication with your teen honest and open.


Photo by Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash