Of course, it’s not easy to know if some people, including your kids, are lying. Research has consistently found people’s ability to recognize if someone is lying is no more accurate than flipping a coin, according to the American Psychological Association. Fidgeting or not making eye contact may seem suspicious, but it’s not proof of lying, for example.
Although law enforcement researchers are studying ways of questioning criminals to discern lies accurately, parents can hardly expect to be professional interrogators — and it probably wouldn’t make family communication better. Instead, working on having a warm, supportive relationship with your child and also being realistic about learning the signs of alcohol abuse are the best ways to help your youngster avoid problem drinking.
While behavior changes are common and normal during adolescence, the NIAAA says these warning signs of alcohol abuse may indicate underage drinking in teens:
- Changes in mood, including bursts of anger and rebelliousness
- Grades going down or behavioral problems in school
- Changing groups of friends
- Low energy level, less interest in activities, and not paying attention to personal appearance
- Finding alcohol among your child’s belongings
- Smelling alcohol on his or her breath
- Problems concentrating or remembering
- Slurred speech or coordination problems
The effects of alcohol abuse on teens can be different from that of adults. First, teens are more likely to binge drink, with potentially dangerous consequences, including fatal accidents, according to the NIAAA. And alcohol affects youngsters physically faster than adults. For example, binge drinking in adults means drinking so much that within about two hours blood alcohol concentration reaches the legal limit of intoxication. But researchers have found youngsters may reach these same levels after only a fewer drinks, the NIAAA notes.
The long-term physical effects of alcohol abuse can start long before teens are fully grown, too. Young people’s brains continue to develop into their 20s, and the NIAAA warns alcohol abuse in the teen years can potentially affect brain structure and function — causing thinking and learning problems. Studies also show youngsters who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol addiction at some point in their lives compared to teens who avoid early drinking, according to the NIAAA.
If you believe your son or daughter has a drinking problem, the NIAAA advises talking to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist to find help for your child. If necessary, therapy is available for teens for outpatient or inpatient treatment at a substance abuse treatment facility or other licensed program.
February 27, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA