Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment

While alcohol consumption is supposed to be limited to people of legal drinking age, it is readily available to teens and the most commonly abused substance among the age group in the US. Binge drinking, self-medication and peer pressure can lead to regular alcohol abuse and, ultimately, ruining one’s life and future. While some teens only drink socially, others become quickly addicted and simply can’t curb the habit.

The teenage body is still developing. Abuse of alcohol in the early teen years, especially between the ages of 12 and 15, can have a huge impact on both physical and emotional health. Teens who abuse alcohol significantly increase their risk of developing an addiction when they are older. It’s critical to seek help for any teen suspected of abusing alcohol.

What Does Alcohol Abuse Look Like?

  • The majority of teens who drink without the knowledge of their parents start by binge drinking. This practice is incredibly dangerous because it almost always leads to a serious level of impairment, rendering teens incapable of making decisions or assessing risks. Binge drinking very often leads to alcohol poisoning and death.
  • Regular drinking can lead teens down the path towards alcohol dependency and addiction. When without alcohol, teens who are addicted may experience cravings and very powerful withdrawal symptoms. The mental and emotional side effects can last into adulthood, even after a teen becomes sober.
  • While liver damage, anemia, and bleeding are serious health consequences to drinking, teens who abuse alcohol may also experience developmental issues. Alcohol abuse can disrupt the systems responsible for their development during puberty. They are also unable to assess their own behavioral risks, many of which lead to sexual exploration and the possibility of contracting STDs or driving while under the influence.
  • Teens are even less likely to understand how intoxicated they are than adults, and they are just as likely to ignore the signs that they are drunk. Excessive drinking can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Anger and irritability

Aggressive behavior

Feeling intense shame about eating


Paranoia and anxiety

Shaking or tremors

Repetitiveness in speech and behaviors


Coordination problems

Speech difficulties

Concentration and memory issues

Extreme fatigue


What Causes Alcohol Abuse?

Genetic predisposition – The risk of a teen struggling with alcohol abuse increases when there is a history of alcoholism within the family. It’s important to talk to your teen about this history so they learn at an early age to always treat alcohol with respect. Teens with a family history run a greater risk of addiction with even casual use.

Trauma or abuse –  A lot of teens who have had a traumatic experience struggle with significant psychological side effects. Many will turn to alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate. The emotional relief they feel, especially if they’ve been struggling throughout childhood, can be very strong, quickly leading them down the path towards dependence. It is common for teens struggling to cope with mental health disorders to use alcohol to treat their symptoms as well.

Early abuse –  Believe it or not, most teens don’t really love the taste of alcohol the first time they try it. The impact getting drunk has on the brain is more impactful, leading them to drink faster than they should. While some cultures support allowing teens to have small amounts of alcohol after a certain age, it is important for them to be limited so they can’t become intoxicated. It’s better, if possible, to avoid allowing teens to have alcohol at all.

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of teen alcohol consumption revolves around binge drinking


of alcohol consumption is done by underage teens


deaths per year are caused by alcohol abuse

How Can I Help My Teen with Alcohol Abuse?

Explore treatment options – Treating alcohol abuse requires a holistic approach. Your teen needs to understand that addiction is a medical issue, but that there are going to be challenges when it comes to staying sober after the initial phase of recovery. Partnering with specialists well-versed in addiction and recovery will ensure your teen receives a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the cause of their drinking, the steps they need to take to stop, and how to live a sober life going forward.

Partner with loved ones – Your teen needs to know that everyone around them is playing a supportive role in the recovery process. Sobriety can be frustrating and every teen will at some point struggle with the cravings associated with addiction. Doctors and therapists will guide your teen through the initial withdrawal phase, but they will need listening ears and supportive friends to help them stay away from temptation in the later phases of recovery.

Create a bond of trust – While people tend to not trust those struggling with addiction, it’s important to remember that teens abusing alcohol very likely have little trust in others as well. You and your teen are going to have to bond on a new level if you’re going to work through this together. Most teens are scared to talk to their parents about alcoholism, but it’s crucial they know they can come to you if they feel like drinking again, or even think about it. It can take months, sometimes years, to completely overcome an addiction to alcohol; as such, it will also take time to rebuild your trusting relationships.

What Type of Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment is Available?

Before anything else can be done, your teen must go through detox. After this process is complete, we can focus on rehab, recovery, and making long-term goals for living a healthy life. Your teen will not leave treatment without knowing what resources are available in the outside world, including online support, in-person groups, and much more.

Withdrawal Treatment

The danger associated with withdrawal depends on how dependent a teen has become. It is rare for people to die from withdrawal, but it has happened. Medically-assisted withdrawal is essential to ensuring your teen remains safe as the body metabolizes and rids itself of any remaining alcohol.

Teens who have overdosed, or who have alcohol poisoning, are often treated in the ER first. This often involves stomach pumping, IV fluids with electrolytes and nutrients, and oxygen. If the poisoning is very severe, your teen may need hemodialysis to filter the blood of toxins.

Residential Treatment

Physical withdrawal is just the beginning. The next stage involves a difficult period of physical and psychological adjustment. Teens struggling with post-acute withdrawal syndrome experience mood swings, cravings, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Living in a residential facility ensures your teen will not have access to alcohol, or any other substance, during this difficult transition. Your teen will work with a team of highly skilled professionals as they learn to live a sober life.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is perhaps the most crucial part of any alcohol abuse treatment program. Your teen is the only one who can control the choices they make. While the brain will eventually heal, with time, the memories of the events that occurred during that time will always exist. Your teen will need help to process their emotions and may, in some cases, relapse before finding the right path.

Therapy is one of the best ways to avoid a relapse, though. Trained therapists can help your teen live a functional, happy, sober life. Your teen will face not only their addiction, but the underlying causes that led them to drink to begin with as well.

Helping Teens with Alcohol Abuse at Paradigm San Francisco

While helping a teen get sober is the first and most important step, it simply can’t be done if your teen isn’t ready. A lot of teens work hard to convince themselves they don’t actually have a problem, so an intervention may be necessary before they truly understand that what they are doing is dangerous and warrants help. Many teens know, at a minimum, that drinking is not legal; this is one of their main motivators for hiding the habit.

Holistic Treatment

Many teens turn to alcohol in response to behavioral issues or environmental concerns. Time spent in a treatment center gives them a chance to get away from their day-to-day environments, giving them space to recover. This dedicated time also helps professionals better assess your teen’s needs so their addiction can be treated with a multi-faceted approach. It’s important to better understand why your teen started drinking and the evolution the addiction took when coming up with an overall strategy. Teens find it easier to process their situations, past behavioral patterns, the consequences of their actions, and their reasons for alcohol abuse when they are not in the same environment that may have created a trigger.

Group Therapy

The team at Paradigm San Francisco offers treatment to teens with varying conditions. Teens benefit from the experiences of others and are motivated by their peers. It’s helpful to know they’re not alone in their struggles.

Your teen’s therapist will explore the reasons they started drinking. This understanding will help them to better identify the same emotions in the future so they can better understand their cravings and control their stress levels. They’ll walk away with healthier coping mechanisms.

Paradigm was one of the best experiences I have encountered. It truly helped my addiction. They had staff there that went through similar realities that I did. There was always someone to talk to 24/7 and I would recommend it to any adolescent who is facing a difficult point in their life. Since going to Paradigm, I am very close to being 2 years sober.

– Miranda D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol Abuse

What if I only drink for fun?

That’s really part of the problem, especially for teens. There is no medically-backed reason for anyone to consume alcohol. Drinking has been part of society for generations on end, but it’s never been considered healthy. Teens tend to use alcohol as a way to prove they can fit in with their peers, for attention, or to push their own limits. The end results are never good, including accidents, pregnancies, and even criminal activity.

Most teens don’t mean to cause trouble, but they don’t understand the life-altering consequences that can occur. This is why it’s dangerous to talk about drinking “for fun.” While a teenager might mentally comprehend the dangers of drinking, but they are also more likely to ignore those same dangers with a drink in hand.

Underage drinking can be life-altering. Drinking for fun does nothing but put you and others in harm’s way.

What should I do if someone I know is abusing alcohol but won’t admit it?

This is a problem you may encounter with anyone who drinks, teenage or adult. It’s very common for those with drinking problems to deny what other people see.

Teenagers have a tendency to be adamant about things they’re uncomfortable discussing, so it may be difficult to get one to admit to having a problem. It’s important to be open and honest without being combative. A teen that fears punishment or judgment will not come around. Make sure your teen understands that your goal is to help them regain control of their life.

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