April showers might bring May flowers, but the month of April is also Alcohol Awareness Month – highlighting an opportunity to become aware and more knowledgeable about alcohol and the effects it can have on ourselves and those we love.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, more than 140,000 people die in the US alone due to alcohol misuse. 1 in 5 deaths among adults ages 20-49 is due to excessive alcohol use. These injuries, accidents, and deaths are all preventable.

Often when people think about alcoholism, they think of extreme cases. Having a drink first thing in the morning, violent outbursts, getting fired or losing a home or family members due to drinking. The stigma surrounding alcohol use limits our ability to recognize just how broad alcoholism can be – all the way from a high-functioning alcoholic to a severe drinking problem. This stigma may lead to someone not recognizing they have a problem because it is “not as bad as it could be”, or not seeking the help they desperately need. Alcoholism can be masked by many, making it difficult to pinpoint just how big the issue is.

This lifestyle-related health issue and stigma is directly impacting not just adults, but our teens today as well. With the increased access to alcohol and the escalation in peer pressure, the statistics on teenage drinking have increased every year. The CDC reports that alcohol is the most commonly used substance in teenagers. The CDC also reports that “excessive drinking contributes to more than 3,900 deaths each year in the US among people under the age of 21”. It’s becoming increasingly more important for parents to start talking to kids and teenagers about the effects of alcohol, as well as ways to say no to the peer pressure they may feel to partake. Below are some signs and symptoms of alcohol use in teen that parents can look out for if they are feeling concerned:

  • Behavioral changes including academics, friends, loss of interest in activities, mood, and neglecting responsibilities
  • Lack of concentration, decreased short-term memory
  • Bloodshot eyes, flushed skin, changes in speech and sleep habits, poor physical appearance, decreased coordination
  • Depression, mood swings, anxiety, using alcohol to numb emotions

Many teens may just “try” using alcohol, but there are others who use alcohol for other reasons, such as self-medicating to deal with deeper issues. Parents need to consider that many factors are playing into the alcohol use and be prepared to take the necessary action to correct the situation at hand. Parents can learn the signs, determine a direction to follow, and reach out for help.

Making the choice to get help or make the changes needed is not an easy decision. Arbor Family Counseling is here to assist in any way we can. Arbor Family Counseling can provide Chemical Dependency Evaluations to both teenagers and adults, as well as provide tips on talking to a teenager, family member, or friend about alcohol use and getting help. A strong support system is crucial during times of need. Arbor can also provide family counseling for teens and adults.  For more information on our evaluations and counseling, please contact Arbor’s front office at 402-330-0960.