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OPINION: What Does Teen Alcoholism Look Like?

In today’s article, content creator Caysie uses her opinion and opinions of others to discuss teen alcoholism.

Trigger Warning: includes descriptions of alcoholism.

Underage and teen drinking is one of the most prevalent aspects of British culture.

With shows like Skins and Euphoria glamourising binge-drinking and substance-dependency among young people, many teens are happy to joke that they’re ‘alcoholics’ - but there may actually be truth in this.

Because this behaviour has become so normalised, it can be hard to spot the signs that you, or someone you love, are actually becoming dependent on alcohol.

So, what does teen alcoholism look like?

Not Knowing When to Stop

You remember the first few times you got drunk - and you probably took it too far.

There’s a period where you first start drinking alcohol where you’re discovering your limits, and learning which drinks you should stay far, far away from. That’s all perfectly normal.

However, if someone, or yourself, always seems to take it too far and is reluctant to wind down when the mood starts to settle, this could be a sign that they’re dependent on alcohol.

Extreme Mood Swings

Some people may believe that they need to drink to enjoy themselves, or to boost their confidence. According to, alcohol forces our bodies to create an increased amount of serotonin and endorphins. These are the ‘happy hormones’.

When we’re drunk, we feel invincible, and are often better socially than we are sober. But what goes up must come down…

You feel great! For a while…

When you wake up the next morning - or late afternoon - you might experience what we call ‘hangxiety’: extreme anxiousness or sadness after a night drinking.

This can be amplified by the fact that you may not remember what you did the night before, or feeling like you’ve embarrassed yourself.

If this sounds like you, it could be time to reconsider your relationship with alcohol.

Changes in Social Circles

This is slightly more subtle.

Teen alcoholics may neglect their original group of friends in favour of a group that enables their drinking, or they believe to be ‘more fun’.

Social circles can be a huge factor in a teen’s relationship with alcohol, and just because their friends are able to say ‘no’ when they choose, or appear to drink more often, this doesn’t mean that their own relationship with alcohol is normal.

Everyone has different limits, and can be more or less prone to addiction and dependency.

“I Need a Drink”

When you’ve had a rough day, you might fancy a drink.

A glass of wine after work is one thing, but turning to alcohol and clubbing to deal with every negative emotion or trauma is another.

DrinkAware explains that alcohol is a depressant. While it can help you to unwind, it can also have extremely detrimental effects on your mental health.

A good rule of thumb is to judge your mood before you reach for a drink. If you’re feeling a little down, stressed, or anxious, getting drunk will only magnify these feelings.

While ‘the crying drunk’ may be a funny archetype, it’s actually quite worrying.

It can be difficult for someone who knows that alcohol ‘doesn’t suit them’ to avoid it when most group outings revolve around drinking, so it isn’t always as simple as ‘just not drinking’ for these people.

If you’re trying to support a friend who struggles with alcohol, try organising different group meet-ups, or staying sober with them.

“I’m a teen alcoholic, ask me anything.”

Their answers were eye-opening, and may resonate with anyone questioning their own, or someone they love’s relationship with alcohol…

Do your parents or teachers know about it?

“My parents are suspicious but unaware. They think I'm struggling with an eating disorder and insomnia, and I can’t be bothered to correct them and have that conversation.

My parents are split though, so it's a difficult situation. My mother works a lot and doesn't really understand or pay enough attention to me to see it, and I rarely see my dad…”

How are you able to fund your addiction?

“Sexual favours, kind strangers who buy me drinks, some saved money from working…”

This is another good indicator that someone is struggling with alcoholism. Ordinarily, you should be able to turn down a drink if you can’t afford it. If someone is going to great lengths to be able to drink, they could be reliant on it for one reason or another.

“I am exactly 1,000 days sober from any alcohol or drugs. Ask me anything!”

The purpose of this article is not to scare you. Things will get better.

If you believe you may be an alcoholic, or developing alcoholic habits, healing is possible. Every day, millions of people make the decision to cut out all substances - often known as being ‘straight edge’, ‘teetotal’, or ‘sober’.

The benefits recorded include improved relationships with friends and family, more money to spare, and the ability to take advantage of new opportunities and hobbies.

u/Xera-God on Reddit shared his experience going sober, and here’s what others wanted to know…

When did the cravings go away, and when did you feel as if you’d made progress?

“I wouldn't say that the cravings go away completely. I do still would like to drink alcohol, but I know well it is toxic and brought me down the wrong path.

From that, I don't have any desire to drink it. The cravings got a lot more manageable at around 2-5 months. I think it really depends on how long you have had the addiction.”

Did you have an exact moment that you realised you needed to get sober?

“Once I saw how my drinking affected my family, my sister in particular - how scared and heartbroken she was by the choices I was making…

I knew it was time to change.

I made a promise and I have stuck with that promise ever since.

It was more of a general realisation. I took some time to evaluate my life, and I realised how corrupt and selfish I was acting.”

How do you deal with lack of motivation to get better?

“Try setting realistic goals.

My first goal was to be more active, and to eat more. I got very skinny, dangerously skinny.

So my first goal was to be healthier, then to go back to education. Once I achieved this and realised I had beaten my addiction I graduated college and was set on an occupation I was passionate about.”

Resources for Teen Alcoholics

No matter how mild or severe you may believe your addiction to be, you still deserve to recover.

There is an abundance of resources online designed to help teens and young adults struggling with addiction.

AdolescentHealth has a master-page of international resources, available here.

The NHS Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Service is available to contact here.

And, if your addiction has led to suicidal ideation, or thoughts of self-harm, you can access support via these services:

UK & Ireland, Samaritans:

CALL: 116 123

TEXT: SHOUT to 85258

United States, Suicide & Crisis Helpline:

CALL: 988

Spanish-speaking counsellors are also available on this number.

Australia, Lifeline:

CALL: 13 11 14

This service also offers an online chat service.

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