Teen mental health
A deep desire to fit in resides inside all of us. Where would we be without our closest friends? Who would we confide in? Who would we laugh with? Who would we cry with? Who would we use as our team members on this journey called life?
Teenagers are notoriously ruthless. Friend groups made of young people can pick up and drop members in the blink of an eye. Friendships end over girlfriends and boyfriends. A teen can bed ditched from their “squad” for not being ‘cool’ or ‘popular’ enough. Teens can also slowly fade out from their friend groups after making the conscious decision to not partake in drinking.
The age that alcohol is introduced to a teen varies greatly from person to person. Sometimes it’s in a friend’s basement after someone stole a few beers from their older sibling, or a half water bottle of vodka from their parents unlocked liquor cabinet. Sometimes it’s at a party during high school. And sometimes, it doesn’t happen until a teen leaves home and goes away to college.
The way that many people grow up, is in a state of constant anxiety. Teenagers are often afraid they won’t fit in with the ‘in-crowd,’ and often partake in dangerous activities just to seem like they are part of the group. Being socially isolated in high school is painful, and many will do just about anything to avoid it. That being said, there are many groups of people in schools that choose to not partake in drinking, and vow to not use any harmful substances until they are of age, or even at all.
No matter how early a person first comes into contact with a situation that involves underage drinking, it is inevitable. Making to choice not to or to participate in drinking can have life-lasting effects on every individual. Teenagers often follow their first instinct when they are put in stressful situations. When the bottle gets passed to them, they may choose to take a swig. Maybe they want to impress the cute girl in the corner. Maybe they want their friends to stop calling them ‘lame’ and a ‘goody-two-shoes.’ And maybe, they just want to fit in.
Despite numerous public opinions, teenage alcoholism is not a joke. It isn’t some myth that high school health teachers till their students to try and shame them into staying on the right path. It isn’t a scare tactic used by parents at their wits end trying to tame their rebellious child. Teenage alcoholism is real, and it destroys lives.
Alcoholism is not only a dangerous, debilitating, and sometimes deadly disease, but also a genetic illness that is often passed down from generation to generation. Alcoholism has many names. It is a mental health disorder. It is an addiction. It is a substance abuse disorder. The bottom line is, alcoholism is a sickness. It is a sickness that takes over the brain and forces an individual to prioritize drinking over all other things in life. It can destroy families. It can end lives.
Teenage alcoholism is unique in many ways. When a person is considered to be an adolescent, their brain is not fully developed. Drinking alcohol before 21 can have devastating and lasting effects on brain development and function. Teenagers often make rash decisions, risky choices, and often do not consider the consequences of their actions. Choices and decisions that are made during adolescence often follow a person until the day they die. This rings especially true when it comes to choices made concerning alcohol.
When a person is still a child, they often depend on their parents or guardians for support. This is another reason why teenage alcoholism is unique in many ways. When a person is underage and they get sent to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, the emergency room must notify the parents or guardians of the child. If a teen decides to try and check themselves into a rehabilitation center, it often has to be financed by a parents insurance or out of the family’s pocket. Drinking under the age of 21 is also illegal, which could mean more lasting consequences that just a nasty hangover.
An adolescent detox is quite different than what is seen in the typical withdrawal process in adults. A common detox process is often compared to the common flu, but 100 times worse. Unfortunately, there are young people out there that have never even had the flu, and experience pain that they have never dealt with before when going through the alcohol detox process. Teenagers also do not deal with pain management as well as their adult counterparts, so the chance of a relapse is also much higher.
A relapse is when a person who is in recovery goes back to using their drug of choice. Relapse is common in teens because situations that could trigger relapses are much more common. Teenagers are just starting out in the party scene, and it only gets worse the older they get.
Parents who believe that their child is suffering from alcoholism may feel as though there is no hope and no options. Rehab centers are for adults, right? Sending a child to a treatment center could have worse consequences when you are putting them in with a bunch of adults, right? This is just not true. There are many ways that teens can get specialized care for their illnesses. There are rehab centers made up of trained professionals that work specifically with teens suffering from alcoholism. These trained professionals that can teach the addicted teen how to deal with anything that life throws their way in healthy and constructive ways.