Starting prevention early can have some impact. However, when it comes down to the prevention of alcohol misuse disorder, that’s another story. You can take meaningful steps to prevent alcohol abuse at an early age and create an environment that deters alcohol use.
Set a Standard at an Early Age to Help Prevent Alcohol Abuse
When is it appropriate to drink? Taking the route that drinking is forever inappropriate will likely spur your teen into exploring not only alcohol but drugs as well. If it’s at all possible, curb a “no-drinking” approach unless you have religious reasons for not drinking.
What you can do is discuss when it’s appropriate and when it’s not appropriate. For example, many adults who don’t suffer from alcoholism or alcohol misuse disorder will find themselves drinking at social events when dining out, and during family holiday events.
You can also discuss other factors, such as whether you have a designated driver or will call a rideshare service. Talk about how these elements play a role in your decision making and how your teen should always weigh their options. Convey also that you’re available to pick them up if they need it, but that doesn’t mean that they are free from ramifications.
Discuss the Cost on a Personal and Society Level
What does alcohol use lead to? For many people, the occasional weekend drink doesn’t lead to any damage. However, many other people develop alcohol misuse disorder from a young age and don’t take into consideration what it does to themselves, the people around them, and society as a whole.
On an individual level, alcohol misuse disorder can lead to liver, kidney, and even brain damage. It can cause severe trauma from high-risk behavior such as drinking and having unprotected sex and worse.
On a family level, alcohol misuse disorder affects numerous families. It causes children to cut off contact with the children, people to become homeless because their family won’t support their lifestyle and more.
On a society level, the misuse of alcohol can lead to the deaths of people who the drinker has never met. It’s possible anytime you get behind the wheel of a car to end after drinking to end the life of a stranger, multiple strangers, or even the loved ones traveling with you.
Make sure that when you discuss these topics, you involve them in the conversation. How many teenagers have heard lectures about the dangers of drinking and still went out to a party and drank anyway? Parents are the front line, but if all they do is lecture the teen, then it’s largely ineffective.
Use leading questions such as, “What’s the worst thing that could happen if you chose to drink?” Then expand on that and talk about the extent as a whole. How would the family of the victim of a drunk driver feel? What financial burden would they suffer if they suddenly had to pay for a funeral, and lost a source of income? You could also make it more personal, what would they do if they were hit by a drunk driver, knowing that they chose not to drink?
Asking questions sparks a discussion, and that leads to results. Whereas, giving a statement about the possibilities will go right over a teenager’s head.
Understand How to Identify High-Risk Drinking Behavior
All the talking and planning in the world can’t prevent alcohol abuse in someone programmed with alcohol misuse disorder. There are times when addicts are simply born, and you may be well aware of the risk of alcoholism in your family. The key is to know the high-risk drinking warnings and to intervene quickly.
One in five teenagers will become heavy drinkers, and many start experimenting with high-risk behaviors in high school. Watch for signs such as drinking alone. Drinking alone is a high-risk sign not only because they’re hiding it, but because they’re not doing it for obvious reasons such as social pressure. In those cases, it’s more likely they’re doing it to self-medicate a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.
Other red flags include going out to various parties, coming home clearly intoxicated, and becoming defensive or making excuses for their drinking. Finally, binge drinking is a big issue. Although it seems like these teens only drink on occasion, the damage of binge drinking may be irreversible or deadly.
If you’ve noticed these signs in your teen, then you may consider an alcohol treatment program. Many teens that drink don’t need extensive or exhaustive in-patient treatment. But, exposing them to therapy and undergoing clinical observation could be necessary.