ALCOHOL USE DISORDER IN ADOLESCENTS
Does your child need an adolescent alcohol use treatment program? Statistics about teen drinking from the Center for Disease Control are alarming. Not only is alcohol the most commonly misused substance among Americans aged 12 to 20, but it is most often consumed via binge drinking, accounts for 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States, and leads to tens of thousands of emergency room visits each year. Experts also agree that underage drinking habits influence one’s likelihood of abusing alcohol later in life — the younger an individual is when they are first exposed to alcohol, the higher chance they have of developing a substance use disorder as an adult.
In addition, the United States’ legal drinking age of 21 was not an arbitrary choice. The age was set based on medical professionals’ evaluation of brain development — estimates placed 21 as the age at which the brain has completed most of its growth and change. Drinking alcohol, particularly binge drinking before the age of 21, can have a significant impact on the parts of the brain that haven’t finished growing, potentially contributing to the increased risk of use disorder and limiting overall development. If an adolescent is exhibiting signs of having an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to limit the harm that alcoholism or alcohol use can have. Our adolescent alcohol use treatment program can help your child.
ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
Although not typically labeled as such, alcohol is a type of drug. It is an addictive, psychoactive substance that results in altered brain function when ingested. Alcohol falls into a category of drugs called depressants — not because they make you feel depressed, but because they “depress” or dampen your nervous system. When you drink alcohol, your brain’s functions generally decrease. This results in the typical signs of being drunk — slowed reaction times, memory loss, poor mood modulation, lack of inhibition, slurred speech, and dulled senses.
But alcohol does stimulate two critical chemicals in the brain: GABA and dopamine, which contribute to the calm, pleasurable, and rewarding parts of being drunk. The increase in these chemicals is what makes alcohol so addictive. Over time, repeated use of alcohol (particularly binge drinking) causes your brain to crave the heightened levels of GABA and dopamine that alcohol artificially creates. What’s more, continued drinking can lead to developing a higher tolerance for alcohol, which means you’ll need to drink more before you can feel the same levels of pleasure from being drunk. As you drink more, your brain continues to become ever more reliant on alcohol to feel calm or happy. This is called a dependence, which quickly turns into an alcohol use disorder as cravings become stronger, and periods between being drunk become harder to bear.
SIGNS OF ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
Since alcohol is considered a very normal part of modern culture, it can be difficult to discern whether someone has an abusive relationship with alcohol or not. Often, those who are struggling with an alcohol use disorder will drink under the guise of social engagements or will hide their heaviest drinking from friends and family. This is particularly true among adolescents, who can be under a lot of social pressure to drink to the point of intoxication. Young people tend to romanticize heavy drinking, equating it with enjoyment, success, or popularity. Speaking up when you are uncomfortable about your own or someone else’s drinking habits can be tough to do as a teen, so it’s important to ensure they have a safe, approachable place to voice their concern. At Stonewater, we want you to know that seeking help for an alcohol use disorder might very well save the life of yourself or your loved one.