Many teens cannot fully understand the consequences of drinking. Not because they aren’t smart, but because their brains are still developing, including the capacity for self-reflection and awareness, decision-making, and risk assessment. Their very youth is one of the underlying risk factors for alcohol addiction in teens. If you suspect your teen is abusing alcohol, consider alcohol addiction treatment.
Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge (PAATC) has a great outpatient treatment option through the Naaman Center, where teenagers reclaim their lives in recovery. The treatment of teen alcohol addiction is not the same as rehab for adults. A teen’s unique stage of development, mental outlook, and social conditioning by peers and the media require an approach explicitly geared for this age group. To learn more about what causes teen alcohol addiction and treatments for an alcohol addiction rehab program, reach out to PAATC today. Dial 844.442.8673 or submit our online form.
What Causes Alcohol Addiction in Teens?
The risk factors for teen drinking do not mean that any teen with some or all will definitely become addicted to alcohol. However, it is helpful to be forewarned and thus forearmed when it comes to knowing the environmental and intrinsic influences that may impact your teen’s vulnerability to alcohol addiction.
The availability of alcohol is a risk factor that affects most teens. Despite laws prohibiting people under 21 from buying liquor, it is in homes and on dinner tables across the country. Teenagers share information, such as whose house has the best-stocked liquor cabinet, as well as access. Whether certain teenagers drink for the first time on a dare, out of curiosity, or to dull anxiety, alcohol was probably not difficult for them to acquire.
The normalization of alcohol use in our culture greatly influences teen drinking. Teens may see alcohol as no big deal because so many of the messages in the media are upbeat, glamorous, and happy. To many teens, drinking seems a mere stepping stone on the road to adulthood. Alcohol use can also be messaged as a way to celebrate success, a reward for working hard, or a stress-reliever. Their brains are not fully developed, but they likely assume that whether they take their first drink at 14 or 21 makes no difference, though it does. The younger a teen starts drinking, the higher the risks for abuse and addiction.
Peer groups have an enormous influence on teen behaviors and attitudes, no matter who they are. Teens who readily question their parents’ motives and intelligence take the thoughts and words of their friends as gospel. It seems that the need to fit in with a group is hardwired into teens’ brains.
If fitting in requires drinking and other risky behavior, teens will often play along, ignoring the risks, or choosing not to believe there are any. It is important to feel normal, so a teen who drinks will pressure others to do so as well, so their behavior does not stand out. When parents say they don’t recognize their teenagers, they are likely behaving in ways that are counter to their upbringing and previously held values. For a teen to experiment with drinking is unsurprising, and given that binge drinking is common among teens, addiction is always a risk.
Behavioral factors such as mental health challenges and trauma can increase the risk of teen drinking. Co-occurring mental health disorders, whether diagnosed or not, can cause teens to self-medicate with alcohol to mute symptoms. For example, teenagers may battle symptoms such as:
- Conduct disorders
- Bipolar disorder
- A history of trauma
They want to fit in, and their social anxiety can impose barriers that alcohol breaks down.
Genetics plays a significant role in teen alcohol use disorders. Having an alcoholic parent or grandparent increases the risk of developing a similar addiction ten times.
Brain development is another biological factor affecting teen behavior, choices, and risks. The fact that teen brains are developing until the age of 25 means that this age group may be unable to weigh consequences, foresee outcomes, or grasp the risks of their actions. A teen who jumps off the cliff into alcohol use feels indestructible because the brain has not developed the ability to grasp the consequences. The alcohol then lowers inhibitions, further undermines decision-making, and offers a false sense of invulnerability. That is one way for the cycle of abuse to begin.
Begin Recovery at Pennsylvania Adult and Teen Challenge Today
At PAATC, we understand the unique factors that play into a teenager’s alcohol abuse and addiction. We understand the fear of being different or unfriended. Our teen support groups are designed to address the way teens think about such things. Our therapists know how to talk to teens, meet them where they are, and get their buy-in, without which recovery is much more challenging.
The evidence-based therapies, the sense of belonging and support, and the family’s involvement are all pieces of our teen alcohol program designed with this age group in mind. Call us today at 844.442.8673 or use our online form, and someone will reach out to you promptly.