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      It’s Fun Until Somebody Gets Hurt: Recognizing the Signs of Teen Alcohol Use

      11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by those under 21 . The statistic isn’t based on college freshmen either: studies estimate that in the past month, 35% of high school students had some amount of alcohol – with 21% of the students binge drinking. If that wasn’t bad enough, 10% of high schoolers drove while drunk and 22% have been in the car with them. Over 4,000 die yearly as a direct consequence of teen alcohol use and a further 190,000 require hospital visits. In short, teen alcohol use is no joke at all.

      The dangers of teen alcohol use speak for themselves. If the numbers alone aren’t enough, everyone has heard the horror stories. Physical damage. Decreased school performance. Alcohol poisoning. Blacking out. Having sex without thinking it through. And, what’s more, drinking at a young age often occurs with less limits than it does in adults. Teen alcohol use frequently takes the form of binge drinking and is much more likely to cause dependency. There are no benefits to underage drinking and a whole slew of disadvantages.

      Ways a Parent Can Help with Teen Alcohol Use

      As a parent, there are several warning signs to look out for in your teen. Much like with drug use, bloodshot eyes and changes in mood can point to teen alcohol use. Poor coordination, strange smells, lack of hygiene, missing classes, lowered grades, slurred speech, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and unexplained injuries are some of the signs common to drinking. In some cases, a teenager may use drinking as a way to cope with mental illness – in these situations, the mental illness is exacerbated by the alcohol. Changes in friend groups can also point to alcohol use: peer pressure often plays a big part in drinking. teen alcohol use

      Talking to your child about their drinking can be difficult. For one, many parents have trouble believing that their child is capable of making mistakes. Although some degree of denial on the parents’ part is normal, an intervention is often the first step on helping their child kick the habit. As such, keeping an eye out for the danger signs and being willing to admit that your child might have a problem is a pivotal point in the healing process.

      When confronting your child, it is important to keep an open mind and stay gentle. Although it may be tempting to lose your temper, keeping a positive attitude will allow your child to open up: this may be vital in case there is an underlying problem that caused the alcohol use to begin with. By being supportive and guiding your child onto the right path, you will strengthen the relationship and ensure your child stays healthy.

      If your child is drinking, it may be time to consider professional help. Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for struggling teens, ages 11-17. Our students commonly deal with issues such as alcohol use, depression, anxiety, ADHD, and many others.

      For more information about Trails Carolina, please call 800-975-7303 today!


      Graham Shannonhouse

      A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13 Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.

      All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse