What is teen alcohol use?

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How do you know if your teen is using drugs or alcohol?

You may worry that your teen is using drugs or alcohol if they become withdrawn or negative. But these behaviors are common for teens. They may also be signs of a mental health condition, such as depression.

It's important not to accuse your teen unfairly. Tell your teen that you are concerned. Try to find out why their behavior has changed.

Experts recommend that parents look for a pattern or a number of changes, not just one or two. Signs that a teen may be using drugs or alcohol include:

  • Having red and glassy eyes and often using eyedrops and breath mints.
  • Paying less attention to dressing and grooming.
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss.
  • Doing worse in school or skipping school.
  • Acting secretive or sneaky.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Having new friends that they don't want you to meet.

Teens: How do you say no to alcohol or drugs?

If someone offers you drugs or alcohol, here are some ways you can respond.

  • Look the person in the eye and say "No, thanks." Sometimes that is all you need to do. Say it as many times as you need to. Also tell the person not to ask you again: "I'm cool with my decision, so don't bother me again."
  • Say why you don't want to drink or use drugs. Here are some examples: "I don't like how I act when I drink or use drugs," "I like to know what I'm doing," "If my parents find out, they won't let me drive," or "I have to practice with my band tomorrow."
  • Walk out. It's okay to leave a party or group where others are drinking or using drugs.
  • Offer another idea. For example, say "I'd rather play video games" or "Let's listen to some music." By doing this, you might also prevent your friend from using drugs or alcohol.
  • Ask for respect. Make it clear that you don't want to drink or use drugs and that continuing to ask you is showing no respect for your opinions: "I don't give you a hard time, so why are you giving me a hard time?"
  • Think ahead. If you think you might go someplace where people are using drugs or alcohol, don't go. But if you do go, think in advance about what you will do if someone offers you alcohol or drugs.

Why is it important to recognize and address a teen's alcohol or drug use?

Using alcohol or drugs affects the brain and causes changes in your teen's alertness, perception, movement, judgment, and attention. These changes may make your teen more likely to:

  • Risk their health and life. Alcohol and drug use is a leading cause of death and injury from car crashes, suicide, violence, and drowning.
  • Have unprotected sex. This can lead to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Be involved in a crime. Drug use and underage drinking are illegal and can lead to arrest and jail time.
  • Have trouble at school or drop out of school.
  • Have health problems because of alcohol or drug use.

How can you help your teen say no to alcohol?

You can teach your teen these ways to say no if your teen is offered a drink.

  • Look the person in the eye and say, "No thanks." Sometimes that is all you need to do. Say it as many times as you need to. Also ask the person not to ask you again: "I'm cool with my decision, so don't bother me again."
  • Say why you don't want to drink. Here are some examples: "I don't like how I act when I'm drinking," "I like to know what I'm doing," "If my parents find out, they'll take my car away," or "I have to practice with my band tomorrow."
  • Walk out. It's okay to leave a party or group where others are drinking.
  • Offer another idea. "I'd rather play video games" or "Let's listen to some music." By doing this, you might also prevent your friend from drinking.
  • Ask for respect. Make it clear that you don't want to drink and that continuing to ask you is showing no respect for your opinions. "I don't give you a hard time, so why are you giving me a hard time?"
  • Think ahead. If you think you might go someplace where people are drinking, don't go. But if you do go, think in advance about what you will do if someone offers you a drink.

What problems can alcohol or drug use cause for teens?

Using drugs or alcohol can change how well you think and make decisions and how quickly you can react. It can make it hard to control your actions. Alcohol or drug use also can change how you feel about your life. It can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Alcohol or drug use can:

  • Make car crashes more likely. If you drink and drive, you can easily crash and hurt yourself or others.
  • Lead to unprotected sex. This can lead to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Result in arrest and jail time for using drugs or for underage drinking.
  • Cause you to do things you wouldn't usually do. You may say things that hurt others or do something illegal that could result in a large fine, loss of your driver's license, or other legal problems.
  • Cause you to lose interest in school and your future. Poor grades or lack of focus may make it harder to set goals and achieve your dreams.
Do not drive if you have been drinking or using drugs. And do not ride in a car (or any type of vehicle) with someone who is impaired.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.