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Is My Teen Drinking? 5 Signs of a Problem & How Online Mental Health Counseling Can Help

Signs of Teen Alcohol Abuse

It is natural to worry about your child's well-being, particularly during the turbulent teenage years. Adolescence is a time when young people are exploring their independence and boundaries, which can often include experimenting with alcohol. Many teens may not even be aware of the potential for risk when it comes to social drinking — and it is far too easy to slip into unhealthy habits. It’s essential to be aware of the signs that your teenager may have a problem with alcohol and be knowledgeable on how to act should the need arise. 

Signs of Problem Drinking

While teenagers are notorious for their sudden and unexplainable shifts in behavior and mood, it is important to monitor these changes and be able to identify what is normal and what is a sign of alcohol abuse. If your son or daughter has been exhibiting sudden mood swings, irritability, or secretive behavior, this could be a sign that they are dealing with an alcohol problem. These changes in behavior may be accompanied by a decline in academic performance or disinterest in their usual hobbies and activities. 

You may also notice physical signs such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on their breath or clothes. Other things to be on the lookout for are unexpected weight loss or gain, being hungover, and unexplained injuries (which may have occurred in a blackout or from impulsive behavior while drinking).

Finding and engaging in social circles is an important part of the teenage years and a normal part of human development. However, teenagers with alcohol problems may withdraw from friends and family, preferring to spend their time alone or with those who share their taste for alcohol. If you’ve noticed that your child isn’t spending time with their normal group of friends, this can be a warning sign as well. 

Along with a change in their social circle, if your teenager has a problem with alcohol you may notice them engaging in risky or dangerous behavior, such as driving under the influence, breaking the law, or engaging in unprotected sex — all of which can have negative consequences and change the course of their life. 

Finally, if your teenager is unable to control their alcohol consumption or frequently drinks more than they intend, this could indicate a problem. They may express a desire to cut back or quit but seem unable to do so despite repeated attempts. If your child is open and honest enough to discuss this with you, take it as a sign of trust. Soon you’ll be in a position to guide them to help.

The Impact of Alcohol on Mental & Behavioral Health


Excessive alcohol use can have serious and long-term consequences for a teenager's mental and behavioral health. According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the CDC, 14% of high school students engaged in binge drinking within the past 30 days ( Alcohol abuse, especially at this age, can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, and may contribute to the development of new mental health problems. Additionally, alcohol can impair judgment and decision-making skills, leading to unintended consequences which can severely alter the course of one’s life. The relationship between alcohol and mental health is complex, as mental health issues can also increase the likelihood of alcohol use and abuse among adolescents. Thus, it is crucial to address both alcohol consumption and mental health in order to promote overall health and well-being.

How Online Mental Health Counseling Can Help

Online mental health counseling has emerged as an effective and accessible method for helping teenagers address their alcohol-related issues. By providing a safe and convenient space for teens to discuss their problems, online counseling sessions can foster open communication and promote self-reflection. The sessions are facilitated by licensed therapists who specialize in teen substance abuse and mental health. They are trained with the necessary skills and evidence-based approaches to help your child identify triggers, develop healthy coping strategies, and address the underlying emotional challenges that may be contributing to their alcohol use. 

These virtual outpatient meetings are also convenient, provide a sense of privacy and, when appropriate, include family involvement. Being online offers the advantage of flexibility and eliminates the need to navigate busy schedules or deal with the logistics of transportation. Working with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home and behind a screen can offer your teenager a feeling of privacy and security. There may be embarrassment or shame around their use and the thought of discussing this openly can be intimidating. The privacy of a screen can open your son or daughter up and engage them more fully in the therapeutic process without fear of judgment or stigma. 

When appropriate, online counseling can involve family members in the therapeutic process. This can promote open communication and foster a supportive home environment. The collaborative approach can be crucial in helping teens overcome their alcohol-related challenges and build a healthier future. Overall, the online approach offers a comprehensive and tailored guide to dealing with problem drinking. It provides invaluable support with the ultimate goal being to empower them to make healthy decisions in their lives as they grow toward adulthood. 

Stonewater offers a virtual intensive outpatient program for adolescent boys and girls, developed by our adolescent treatment experts. For more information or to sign up, visit our VIOP page here: