It may not always be obvious, but the signs of alcohol abuse are there. It can be hard to recognize the subtle hints of addiction in our loved ones, especially children. But research has shown that as many as 78% of high school kids have tried alcohol. Sometimes, this experimentation leads to addiction, which can ruin lives if not treated. As a parent, you need to be aware of the warning signs of alcohol abuse in your child. Despite your conversations and best efforts, your child could still be at risk. How can you be sure? Here are the telltale signs of alcohol abuse in youth…
Finding empty bottles/cans hidden in their room
Alcoholics want to keep their drinking a secret, especially younger ones. Most of the time, they use hiding places in their room to stash their alcohol. These can be in cushions, under the bed, behind shelves, empty suitcases, and more. You can also look in the recycling bins to see if more trash has accumulated or if there are empty bottles or cans that you know are not yours.
Beer/alcohol in the house mysteriously disappearing
Have you noticed a couple cans of beer or bottles of liquor missing? You may have thought you went through them yourself and forgot. Kids need a continual supply of alcohol as they get more and more dependent, which leads them to get it anywhere they can, like your liquor cabinet.
Change in grades
Perhaps your straight-A student has started to bring home poor grades. Some of the signs of alcohol abuse in children involve lateness, bad attendance, and low grades at school. Their behavior changes with this new, unhealthy activity.
When children start abusing alcohol, a change in friendships can also happen. This might mean brand-new friends replacing old ones or having sets of separate friend groups. Your child might also show even more secrecy over their mobile devices and social media accounts.
Change in physical and mental behavior
Differences in hygiene, sleep patterns, eating habits, mood, and attitude could also be indications of alcohol abuse. Physical signs of an alcoholic include dirty clothes, unkempt appearance, drawn and tired demeanor, and increased body odor. Kids who abuse alcohol care little for what they look like and focus more on how to get their next drink. Mental-health issues like depression and anxiety could also become apparent.
Need for money
Kids usually don’t have the means to pay for their alcohol fix. Watch out for any missing jewelry, electronics, and other items worth selling. If your child asks for money often or has unexplained debit card overages, this may be cause for concern.
Says they’re “just partying” with friends
Getting drunk at a party doesn’t always indicate a problem. A lot of kids experiment with alcohol without becoming addicted. However, it’s still important to take underage drinking seriously. Make sure your child knows that it can’t keep happening and pay attention to repeated behaviors.
Smells of alcohol and slurred speech
Children and teens show the same intoxication symptoms as adults. If your child comes home smelling of alcohol, is unsteady, and slurring his or her speech, then it might be time for a discussion about alcohol abuse.
Remember, just because your child might show a couple of these signs of alcohol abuse doesn’t mean it’s true. Adolescence brings with it changes in physical appearance, social skills, emotions, and intelligence. Combined with hormonal changes, youth behavior can seem erratic at times. But if your child experiences a number of these signs, it may point toward alcohol dependency. Recognizing alcoholism in others can be difficult, but knowing what to look for can lead to early interventions and better help.
Erica Franco Mortimer, MA, LPC, LCADC
Founder and CEO
Center for Healing
Erica is a licensed therapist with over twenty-years experience in mental health. Erica offers practical and straight forward advice to those struggling with addiction and their families. Having deep insight and understanding of addiction, Erica is able to offer guidance to those looking to regain control of their lives.