Recognize The Signs

It’s 5:00 PM on a Friday evening and you have just gotten home after a long day of dealing with knaggy bosses, lazy coworkers, subordinates that are in complete disarray, or even finally completing one of the biggest projects you have ever received on your job—regardless, it has been a LONG day. All you can think about is a quick unwind before beginning your house duties of cooking dinner, cleaning, and spending quality time with your family. You go over to your cabinet to pour a glass of your favorite drink of choice—be it wine, vodka, bourbon, whiskey, rum, etc. Then, that’s when you see it. The bottle is gone. You think to yourself, “Surely, I didn’t have THAT hard of a week.” You distinctly remember the bottle sitting in the cabinet and being at least half full less than two nights ago. Let’s say you ask your spouse; they haven’t touched it. Before you arrived home, no one else had been in the house except your 14- year-old home from school. “Can’t be…”

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the most widely used substance of abuse among youth in the United States.[1] In 2017, it was reported that over seven million adolescents were current alcohol users, and 60% of teens across the nation had at least one drink before their eighteenth birthday.[2] Underage drinking has the potential to negatively affect everyone, making it a severe public health concern. Ultimately, close to 5,000 people die every year as a result of underage drinking through alcohol-related injuries (e.g., alcohol poisoning, DUI vehicular accidents, blackouts, etc.) and violence in addition to several other consequences.[3] Underage drinking also negatively disrupts the physical and mental development of adolescents. Youth who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence.[4] The 2016 Georgia Student Health Survey reported that  one out of every ten 12th graders admitted to binge drinking within the past 30 days. Additionally, within the past two years, Cobb County has been announced to have the highest number of DUI arrest. This displays the current issue of alcohol abuse that is present within the area.

It’s the next day after you’ve solved the case of the missing alcohol. You find your guilty 14-year-old laid in bed, sick with a hangover (wreaking of alcohol), although he unsuccessfully attempts to convince you he’s just sick. Suddenly realizing he has missed numerous days in school, his second track meet this month, and his third Saturday community service with the church, you stand outside his door apprehensive and confused. When did this start? What do you say now that he’s awake and sober? How can you prevent this from becoming a habit and an on-going issue?

As parents and legal guardians, you play one of the most critical roles in shaping your teen’s habits and attitudes toward alcohol to ultimately help them to avoid succumbing to addiction or worse. You can do this by:

  • Reducing access to any alcohol present in the home by keeping all alcohol locked up away from minors
  • Recognize the signs if your child is drinking and address the behavior–experts believe that a drinking problem is more likely if you notice several of these signs at the same time, if they occur suddenly, or if some of them are extreme in nature.
    • Mood changes
    • School problems: poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action
    • Rebellion against family rules
    • Friend changes and a reluctance to let you get to know the new friends
    • A “nothing matters” attitude: sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy
    • Finding alcohol in your child’s room or backpack or smelling alcohol on his/her breath
    • Physical or mental problems: memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech
  • Having a conversation with your teen about the dangers of underage drinking, showing disapproval of underage drinking, and emphasizing that you care about your child’s health and success



[1] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017, February). Underage Drinking. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website:

[2] National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (2017). Slides Based on 2017 NSDUH Annual National Report. PowerPoint. Retrieved from

[3] American Addiction Centers. (2017, August 29). Alcoholism. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from website:

[4] Mothers Against Drunk Driving. (2019). Statistics. Retrieved April 9, 2019, from Mothers Against Drunk Driving website: