Options For Treating Teen Addiction to Alcohol

Published On 15-March-2020
By Tim Wood

The truth is that being a teenager, especially in today's world, can be really hard. Teens are dealing with staggeringly high rates of mental illness, peer pressure that they cannot escape due to social media and are trying to figure out who they are.

The truth is, it is nearly impossible to protect your child from all the dangers of technology and modern social situations without risking all the consequences of isolation. Teenagers experiment and one-time drinking with friends may not constitute addiction, but it can lead to serious problems and consequences.

Whether a teenager uses alcohol to self-medicate, appease peers, or gain confidence in social situations, it is important to treat alcoholism in teens with care and a sense of urgency.

What Is Substance Abuse Disorder?

Substance abuse disorder is when a person of any age continues to use a substance (whether that be drugs, alcohol, etc.) despite a desire to stop or despite negative effects and consequences.

Often, people with substance abuse disorder get addicted when they are young but can remain in denial about it for years. People with substance abuse disorder may feel like they physically can not stop abusing a substance, usually, because their brain and/or body has become dependent on it.

They may start to choose the substance above family, friends, responsibility, and fun. Often, when someone has a substance abuse disorder, they also have various other mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, or other behavioural disorders. 

Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse

There are various signs that can hint at alcohol addiction or abuse. You can break the signs into to main categories: physical symptoms and psychological symptoms. Physical symptoms are mainly those that affect the way that they appear (or smell like.) You will be able to actually see the physical symptoms.

Psychological symptoms are behaviors and attitudes that are abnormal for the teenager. Of course, a third category would be evidence of the actual alcohol. So this would be bottles or paraphernalia in their room or with their stuff, bottle openers, glasses that still smell of alcohol, or cannabis butts outside.

Physical Symptoms

Some of the most common physical symptoms in teens that indicate alcohol abuse are:

1. Changes in Eating Patterns

Alcohol, especially when consumed in large quantities, can change a person's eating habits. They may be drinking so much (and so focused on alcohol) that they forget to give their bodies the nutrients it actually needs. They may also get the munchies and eat large quantities of food at a time.

2. Changes in Sleeping Patterns.

Someone drinking a lot may be up late at night out with friends drinking or drinking by themselves. Because of that (and due to hangovers), they will probably start to sleep in a good bit. Overall, their sleeping patterns may begin to just seem strange.

3. Dilated Pupils

When someone is drunk, their muscles start to relax (including their eye muscles.) Because of this, often when someone is drunk, their pupils will appear dilated.

5. Slurred Speech.

When someone is drunk, their words will often run together and sound slurred.

6. Strange Smells

If you smell alcohol on the breath or clothes, there is a good chance they are drinking. If it is a lot or often, they may have a substance abuse disorder.

Psychological Symptoms

1. Appearing Spaced Out

When a person is drunk, they may appear spaced out or unfocused, but beyond that, they may seem unfocused even when they are sober. Someone with addiction may spend a lot of time focusing on alcohol instead of the present moment, making them appear spaced out even when sober.

2. Paranoia, Nervousness, or Fear

Someone may experience paranoia or fear when they are drunk, but it is more likely that the teen may seem unusually fearful and secretive. This is because, most of the time, the teen does not want their parents to know they have a problem.

3. Lack of motivation

A person with a substance abuse disorder may have little to no motivation to do anything but drink or use the substance.

4. Changes in attitude or personality

Alcohol dependency and addiction can change someone's entire personality due to a change in the balance of chemicals in their brain, other mental health issues, etc.

Treatments in Outpatient Rehab:

Below, we have listed some of the options that are available for you to discuss with your teenager, and to decide together which option would benefit them the most:

1. Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivational Enhancement Therapy, or MET, is designed to motivate a teenager (or anyone for that matter) to stay sober. It does that by providing a person with very specific goals and then rewards for completing those goals.

Of course, this works best if the person is already interested in staying sober, but it can help a teenager that is not all that motivated on their own.

2. Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA)

This kind of treatment is designed to specifically help teens and young adults and can be performed in an inpatient or outpatient setting. The goal of this approach is to help young people stay sober and live happy and healthy lives.

Through clinical sessions (with the adolescent, with the adolescent and the parent, and sometimes with just the parent), a licensed therapist will work to help the patient meet certain goals in all areas of their life. This could be sills in problem-solving, communication, or fostering positive relationships.

3. Contingency management

Contingency management is a kind of behavioral therapy that aims to reinforce positive behavior by rewarding the patient. Rewards can be the chance to win prizes, treats, gift cards, or anything else that may motivate the person. Of course, the rewards should be chosen based on what the patient likes.

Family Therapies in Outpatient Rehab

Teenagers who are suffering from substance abuse, similarly to adults with substance abuse problems, require unconditional support and need to feel like they are loved no matter what.

Here are some of the three most common forms of family therapy that have proven effective in teen addiction treatment programmes:

1. Family Behavioural Therapy

Family behavioral therapy is designed to help the whole family learn new behaviors and habits as well as process any feelings of resentment, anger, hurt, etc.

Addiction does not only affect the individual, but everyone around the individual, and this kind of therapy is designed to address that fact.

2. Brief Strategic Family Therapy

Family structure is highly correlated with teen alcohol abuse problems; for this reason, Brief Strategic Family Therapy can be extremely beneficial.

The therapy is designed to diagnose the problematic family behaviors and then design a plan to specifically address those plans. This can help a family completely rework how they operate and foster healthy communication, boundaries, etc.

3. Multidimensional Family Therapy

This kind of therapy is designed to address and aid an individual with their personal problems and the family with their problems.

This kind of therapy looks at the actual substance abuse, emotional problems, behavioral problems, school problems, social problems, and family problems and then tries to treat every dimension of a teenager's addiction.

How to Find Treatment

There are lots of options out there as far as treatment options; you just have to figure out what you and your teen needs. Do you want to send them to inpatient treatment? (usually recommended by professionals.)

Do you want them to be with other teenagers or with other adults and teenagers? What other kinds of therapies are you interested in? Once you figure out what you want, all it takes is some research to find the perfect fit.

Alternative Therapies

Aside from inpatient and outpatient treatment, and the aforementioned family therapies, there are somealternative treatments/ programmes that could benefit your teen.

It is crucial that you communicate your teen's desires to your healthcare advisor or doctor, and that the treatment plan reflects the needs and wishes of everyone involved.

The alternative options are:

1. Assertive Continuing Care

Usually, a patient will continue some kind of treatment after they leave in an inpatient or residential treatment center. Assertive Continuing Care provides that patient with a lot of support in the beginning to prevent relapse and then a gradual reduction as time goes on./p>

This can be extremely beneficial as teenagers adjust to the outside world again and no longer have access to the same 24-hour care they did before.

2. Peer Recovery Support Services

Sometimes being around people of the same age that are recovering from similar problems can be extremely beneficial. This allows people to be motivated, supported, and encouraged by people that actually understand what they are going through.

This can also be a great way for a teenager to get involved in social circles that will not be pushing them back towards addiction. Of course, most of these sessions are facilitated by some sort of adult or professional.

3. Recovery High Schools

Sometimes going back into a regular high school can be overwhelming and may contribute to a relapse. A recovery high school allows a teenager to continue to work on their education and have social interactions without the same risk that a regular high school presents as they are designed to help people with substance abuse problems.

The Importance of Sharing Responsibility

It is completely counterproductive to blow up and completely blame the child for their behavior. If you can, try to figure out where you may have played a part and own up about that to your teen.

When a teenager sees their parents admit mistakes, they will be more likely to open up and do the same.

Other Things Treatment Programs Address

Treatment programmes for teens exist to treat the issue at hand: a young person's behaviours and attitudes towards substances. However,  many facilities and pogrammes also treat and deal with the following issues:

  • Physical issues and ailments
  • Mental Health Disorders
  • Poor Social Skills
  • including things like anger issues
  • Educational Problems
  • Trauma
  • Malnutrition

How to Sensitively Send Someone to Rehab

When you send a person to rehab, it is best to do it in a gentle way. Instead of getting angry with them, try to calmly explain to them how they will benefit from rehab.

The truth is, a teenager is bound to get angry or upset when they are sent to an inpatient program, but once they finish withdrawal and get help, they will generally see all the ways they benefitted from it.

Tips for Teen Recovery

Tell your friends. Your true friends will respect your decision, and having a support system of your peers will be extremely beneficial. Go to social events (that alcohol will not be involved in.) Make sure you are still having sober fun. Have a plan in place for when you are tempted to relapse.

Remember having an addiction does not make you a bad person. There are plenty of people and treatment options out there for you which can put you on the right path to a healthy and sober future.

Get in touch today

Call us now on 0800 111 41 08 for confidential and immediate advice on the best alcohol addiction treatment option for your teen.


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