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The teenage years are the most adventurous, curious; yet dangerous years of our lives. These are the years when we stretch the parental boundaries, and attempt to figure-out the fuss behind the forbidden. Sex, drugs, sleepovers, late night parties and prom nights are just a few things that will become a part of your teen’s life. Disturbingly so, alcoholism is also one of the many ‘new’ things many teens will take part, as it allows them to unite with others. So much to the extent that alcohol is the most frequently used stimulant by teenagers and almost 8% of teens say that they've had a minimum of 5 drinks or more in one single sitting. While some teens have the sense to enjoy themselves at a party and leave it at that; many others are getting dangerously addicted to the bottle. Teenage alcoholism is now a serious problem faced by many concerned parents.

 
Why is alcohol bad for teenagers and why do they do it?
 
Although alcohol isn’t good for anyone, teens in particular are affected very easily. Alcohol has an major impact on one’s concentration abilities; making most teens fare badly at school or college. Teens that drink heavily are more likely to experiment with unsafe sex and drugs like marijuana and cocaine, and even contemplate or attempt suicide. Even more disturbing is the fact that almost every year at least 2000 youngsters below the age of 21 die in car crashes and accidents due to underage drinking.
 
So why would a teenager resort to alcohol in spite of parental advice or even after being aware of the risks? The answer lies in what motivates the teenager to drink. In families, where either or both parents are alcoholics, the children will most certainly take after them since this is the behavior they are exposed to at home. Some teenagers may drink alcohol thinking it will sort out emotional problems, but in today’s world of insecurity; it’s mainly because it takes away their inhibitions, and gives them the confidence to do what ever! On the other hand, due to the club culture that has emerged, teens that don’t drink are looked upon as sissies or uncool. Quite often teenagers drink because they don’t want to be outcasts. Before long, what started as fun becomes a habit they can't do without.
 
It is when teenagers get hooked to the bottle that they begin to show noticeable changes in behavior and in their actions. They may start lying to get more money from their parents, become verbally or physically abusive, have frequent mood swings, may switch their friend circle to those on the lower end of the spectrum, and usually have the smell of alcohol on their body or breath. This is when most parents sense that all is not right with their teenager.
What can you do as a parent
 
The first important step is to educate yourself on what options are available if you feel your teenager has a drinking problem. Watch for the smell of alcohol on their breath, blood shot eyes or any other change in behaviour. Do not make the mistake of assuming that the problem will simply get sorted out by itself because it won’t. Experts have now identified "five stages of alcohol and simultaneous drug abuse":
 
First stage is access to such stimulants.
Second stage involves using either of these stimulants or both occasionally.
Third stage is when the usage of alcohol, drugs or both increases.
Fourth stage, the teenager concerns himself or herself with being in a state of intoxication at all times and is likely to develop problems in different areas of life.
Fifth stage is when the teenager feels that he or she is normal only when he or she is intoxicated. By this stage, teens are likely to steal, drive while intoxicated, have mood swings or even attempt suicide.
Talk to your teenager about the ill effects of alcohol and establish grounds for open communication. While it’s important to give your teenager a certain amount of freedom, it’s also important to be aware of what your teen is up to and maintain active parenting throughout. Studies have shown that letting teens take up a hobby, participate in extracurricular activities or even encouraging them to spend some time in prayer everyday; helps them deal better with stress and in turn have fewer drinking problems as well.
 
If you feel that your teenager needs professional counseling and help, then it is best to see a doctor about further treatments. Treatments suggested depend on how addicted a teenager is to alcohol, and if there is usage of drugs as well. Besides enrolling your teenager in twelve step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, there are various counseling treatments that are administered individually.
 
Methods like ‘Motivational Enhancement Therapy’ which helps teenagers become more responsive to therapy, and ‘Stimulus Control’ which uses treatment to help a person stay away from situations that can enhance alcohol use, are also advised. Teenagers show faster results in therapy when they have the support of the family to get them through the rough phase. Multidimensional family therapy, group therapy or multifamily educational intervention are recommended therapies which are all highly effective in treating teenage alcoholism.
 
Although teenage alcoholism affects many young lives across the country, a little bit of responsibility and awareness can make all the difference in the world.
 


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