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Teen Alcohol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment


teen abusing alcohol

Alcohol was once an illegal substance in the United States. In America, alcohol is now a legal substance for individuals over the age of twenty-one. Furthermore, it has become an integral part of the American culture. Alcoholic beverages come in different forms such as beer, hard liquor, and wine. Each type of alcohol includes a distinct amount of alcohol content. When referring to a certain number of drinks consumed, it implies one standard drink as provided by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to be:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol content) 
  • 8 – 9 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of unfortified wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor (40% alcohol content)

Excessive alcohol use according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes males drinking more than five alcoholic drinks within a two-hour period and females drinking more than four alcoholic beverages within a two-hour window. Alcohol is currently considered to be the most frequently used drug by teens in America. It is important to note that while there are several adverse affects that can occur from substantial alcohol use in teens, not every teenager that uses alcohol will go on to develop a dependence or unhealthy relationship with alcohol. 

Signs and Symptoms

There are several factors that will weigh into how alcohol affects each teenager. Certain factors such as a young person’s age, the amount of alcohol consumed, how quickly the alcohol is consumed, whether the teen mixes alcohol with other substances, and one’s overall heath are considerations that will all inform the signs and symptoms he or she exhibits. Unlike other substances that young people may abuse, alcohol abuse may be slightly more difficult to notice. Some of the common signs and symptoms of teen alcohol abuse could include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following, as provided by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Memory impairment
  • Slurred speech
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Poor coordination
  • Dangerous and risky behaviors
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol
  • Liver damage
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach aches
  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired judgement
  • Blackouts
  • Lack of inhabitations

If you notice your teenager’s behavior has uncharacteristically shifted and/ or your teen presents with any of the above examples it may be advantageous to obtain guidance from a qualified mental health professional. 


Alcohol is a toxic drug, and as such when abused can lead to detrimental long and short-term consequences on the developing brain of an adolescent, if left untreated. While not every teen that uses alcohol will require treatment for alcohol abuse, for those that do there are several options. If a young person has developed alcohol dependence, the first step in the treatment process will be to undergo detox, which cleanses the body of all abused substances. Depending on the needs of the teenager, continuing the recovery process by attending a substance abuse or addiction treatment program may be beneficial. Several options are available that cater to young people to assist with treating alcohol abuse. At Pacific Teen Treatment, we offer a residential treatment program that utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches. Some of the treatment modalities we incorporate into our treatment plans include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Pacific Teen Treatment works with each of its residents to create a tailored and unique treatment plan, catering specifically to each teen’s personal and nuanced recovery needs. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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