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Unchildish Problem: How to Help a Teenager Fight Alcoholism?

23.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“My son is 14 years old, he is in the 8th grade. He was always growing a responsible, diligent boy. But at the age of 13 it seemed like the son was allegedly replaced. I can’t understand how I could miss a moment when he got into a bad company.

It always seemed to me that children could not even think about drinking alcohol. But that company was different – they were smoking and drinking, walking in the streets until midnight. As I later learned – they were even stealing a bit. I don’t know what these guys made to get my always calm son interested. But he began to spend all his free time with them. At the age of 13, he first came home drunk. My husband and I were shocked. We had a conversation, we convinced him not to stay with this company. In response, we heard only “I want and will go out with them”.

Then it became even worse. Over the last year, my son was drinking dozens of times and even a day was under arrest for hooliganism. I want to protect my child from danger. It seems that way to alcoholism isn’t very far.

I don’t understand the main thing – why my teenager drinks. We have a prosperous family. Our son always received everything he wanted. But now I don’t know how to talk to him. Any of my words are confronted”.

– Elena, 35 

Many people are sure that only children from disadvantaged families can start drinking during adolescence. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Severe statistics of teenage alcoholism prove that about 33% of schoolchildren in Russia at the age of 13-14 have already tried alcohol and periodically take it. [1] A rare parent can be absolutely sure that his/her child will not fall into this bleak statistic. “We didn’t look well after him” is the most common phrase at the reception of a narcologist, repeated by mothers and fathers, worried about the state of their kid. In the article we raise an important question: “What reasons push a child in the net of harmful habits. What should parents do if a teenager is drinking?”


Causes of alcoholism among teenagers

alcoholism in adolescents

Teenage alcoholism is a regular use of alcohol at the age of 15-17. Since a child’s body is less tough than an adult’s, dependence on alcohol in a child progresses more rapidly. If a teenager began to drink at 12-13 years old, by the age of 18-20, he/she will be developing a serious physical alcohol addiction. [2]

The causes of teenage alcoholism will identify the measures for the prevention and treatment of this disease. The factors influencing the formation of the pernicious habit can be divided into biological and mental.

  1. Biological factors

To the biological factors of the risk of an early alcoholism development, narcologists refer heredity. It is believed that in children born in families with at least one alcodependant parent, the pernicious habit develops 3-4 times more often. [3]

  1. Mental factors

According to experts, it is psycho-emotional factors that become the main reason for an early alcoholism development. The teenage crisis is associated with serious changes in the child’s body, in his/her worldviews. A teenager tries to solve with alcohol many of the problems that for him/her seem to be “global”. 

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To the psycho-emotional reasons of teenage alcoholism, the following can be attributed

  • lack of attention from parents;
  • desire to build self-affirmation in the company of peers;
  • weak character, and as a consequence of the use of alcohol “for the company”. [2]
In 60% of cases, their first glass of alcohol is received by teenagers with a diagnosis of further alcoholism from the hands of their parents. Adults are convinced that better their child will try alcohol at home than “somewhere on the street”. And already at the age of 10 they dare offer a son or a daughter to drink at a family holiday. [4] But this attitude on the part of parents looks somewhat like a reward. A little grown up, a teenager will conclude that mother and father are not at all against his/her drinking. This may be the first step toward alcoholism.

Stages of formation of teenage alcoholism

how to stop drinking

The harmful habit is formed gradually, a teenager passes 3 stages. [3]

The first stage

It starts with the first alcohol sample. As a rule, a schoolchild agrees to this under the influence of a senior comrade or in a company of friends. It is difficult for a teenager to say a firm “no”, even if he/she understands perfectly that alcohol is bad. A big role here is played by curiosity, the desire to be “like friends” and the desire to self-affirm in the team – that is why teenagers drink alcohol.

According to experts, the younger a child, the more likely he/she will become dependent from the first alcohol sample.

The second stage

After the first try of alcohol, a searching additive behavior gradually develops. “Experiments” with various alcoholic beverages begin. A teenager has a desire to try not only beer, from which “everything began”, but also other types of alcohol – cocktails, energy drinks, wine, vodka. All pocket money goes to the purchase of alcohol – as a rule, not of the best quality.

At this stage of the development of alcoholism in adolescence, there is no mental dependence, but group mental dependence can be formed. A teenager, even if he/she initially doubted – to drink or not to drink – is already fully oriented toward the company of friends, in which everyone drinks. He/she cannot get out of the flock.

The third stage

This is the stage of a transition of addictive behavior to the disease. The rate of development of addiction increases if a teenager drinks alcohol regularly, gradually increasing the amount.

According to narcologists, the course of teenage alcoholism is not subject to a single assessment, it cannot be compared with “adult” drunkenness. Patients under the age of 18 are diagnosed with the 1st stage of alcoholism. The 2nd stage of disease is extremely rare due to the main symptom missing in young people – a withdrawal syndrome. [4]

Influence of alcohol on the body of a teenager

prevention of alcoholism

The personality of a child during the teenage crisis undergoes many changes – habits and character are formed, an idea of the external world is laid. And if at some stage of psychological or social development a child gets involved in alcohol, there is a breakdown.

The organisms of young men and women, since most of them do not yet have serious adult diseases, can over 2-3 years resist the negative effects of alcohol on the body. At the first stage of the addiction formation, a teenager can feel well physically, which only pushes him/her to drink even more. But then, serious health problems inevitably begin. There are few enzymes in the liver that can split ethanol. Poisons “diverge” throughout the body, provoking the development of numerous diseases.

A child is gradually falling behind in mental development. Hence, the numerous problems with school performance begin. A child does not study well and does not remember what he/she has read. In a number of cases, the harmful habit causes a teenager to quit school

Also, early alcoholism stops the process of formation of ethical and moral norms. Alcohol-containing substances “cut off” in the brain the centers of self-control. A teenager ceases to adequately perceive what is happening and understand what is good and bad, does not realize the consequences of own actions. A drunken teenager can cause harm to the surrounding people – violence, beating, theft, vandalism. [4]

Alcohol addiction leaves its imprint on the personality and behavior of a child:

  1. School performance is falling down.
  2. Friends change. At the same time, a child refuses to introduce father and mother to new friends.
  3.  A teenager loses interest in what he/she previously liked. Hobbies are now on the last place.
  4. Aggressive reaction when parents try to talk about addiction to drinking.
  5. A state of apathy, low energy.
  6. A child begins to ask for more pocket money and can even steal it from your wallet.
  7. A child commits legal violations (fights, theft and hooliganism).
  8. Your daughter/son does not want to let relatives in his/her room.

In addition, drinking teenagers are often thin, pale, they have poorly developed secondary sexual characters. Due to the regular intake of ethanol into the body of a child, the work of the gastrointestinal tract can be disrupted. So, hair and nails become thin. These are some external signs of teenage alcoholism, according to which parents can understand that their child has problems. [4]

Consequences of teenage alcoholism

alcohol addiction

It is important not to miss a moment when a teenager can still be helped. Alcoholism at the later stages is a disease with which the child has very little chance of becoming a full member of society.

Teenagers’ alcoholism entails numerous problems:

  • rapid development of pathology of the heart, liver, stomach, kidneys;
  • diseases of the reproductive system (both boys and girls);
  • early sexual life, which is dangerous for unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections;
  • mental disorders;
  • completely ignoring the educational process, which minimizes the chances of getting a decent education. [3]

Prevention of alcoholism among teenagers

The personality of an individual is formed from childhood. Therefore, prevention of alcoholism should begin as early as possible. The main task of parents is to give maximum attention to the problem, and not to neglect the development of a child. It is much easier to prevent addiction than to treat it in the future.

What should be included in the prevention of alcoholism in the teenage environment?

  • A positive example of parents. If mum and dad abstain from drinking alcohol in the presence of their child, he/she will not have the desire to try a “forbidden” drink.
  • It is important to provide the child with a variety of leisure activities so that he/she does not have the opportunity to spend a lot of time in non-trusted peer companies.
  • Parents need to encourage the child’s interest in learning and hobbies.
  • It is important that the family has friendly and trusting relationships. [4]
Taboos and emotional morals on the part of parents are not the best prevention of teenage alcoholism. It is recommended that conflicts must be resolved only through peaceful dialog in the upbringing of a child in a serious age crisis. Refrain from criticizing your teenager’s friends and from scandals about spending time with bad companies. Such actions will be certainly perceived by the child as an invasion of his/her personal life and he/she will certainly do everything “the other way round”.

Treatment of teenage alcoholism

Treatment of alcoholism in teenagers has its own peculiarities. This is mainly caused by the fact that children, due to an insufficiently developed psyche, are unable to recognize the existing problem. The responsibility rests entirely with the parents. It is they who must react in time and hurl all their effort into helping their child.

Teenage alcoholism is formed at a complex stage of a child’s personality formation. He/she will certainly sharply negatively treat the parents’ requirements to undergo a course of therapy – will make a scandal, can leave the home. It is important to speak frankly with the teenager, while avoiding accusations, and convince him/her to start self-work until it is too late.

The treatment of teenage alcoholism should be supervised by specialists. Home therapy is prohibited due to the peculiarities of developing the bad habit at an early age. According to narcologists, cases when a teenager needs to quit a binge are extremely rare, since the addiction has not yet reached its peak. If parents are able to react in time, psychotherapy will become an effective treatment. Behavioral psychology shows excellent results. 

At all stages of getting rid of the pernicious habit, young people need the support of relatives. Specialists advise parents to spend more time with their teenagers, become softer and more patient, help the child find an interesting hobby. [2]

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One of the new methods of treating teenage addictions is the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented course based on the theories of I.P Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky. The program helps correct the behavior of a child by eliminating his/her alcohol addiction.

After the course, a child will master a healthy pattern of behavior. He/she will understand that alcohol does not solve any problem, does not help find interesting friends, does not give a chance to achieve success in life. This is the way to nowhere – to live without an opportunity for development and prospects. After changing negative attitudes, a teenager will find more rational ways to get rid of fears and depression – the very emotions that can push an unformed personality to use alcohol.

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique course is designed for up to 6 weeks. Teenagers are very secretive, react sharply to criticism and ridicule of peers. But a child can relax by taking the 7Spsy course, as the classes are held in a convenient completely confidential remote mode. A child is not obliged to inform either friends or teachers that he/she is getting rid of alcohol addiction. A psychologist gives all necessary consultations in a convenient remote mode – by e-mail, in online chats and over the phone.


  1. «Formirovanie alkogol’noj zavisimosti v podrostkovom vozraste. Biologicheskie i psihicheskie aspekty» (zhurnal «Nauchnye vedomosti», 2012 g., №6), A. V Lokteva (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/formirovanie-alkogolnoy-zavisimosti-v-podrostkovom-vozraste-biologicheskie-i-psihologicheskie-aspekty).
  2. «Podrostkovyj alkogolizm: dvojnaya opasnost’» (zhurnal «Pedagogicheskaya nauka i praktika), 2018 g., №2), A. I. Savost’yanov (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/podrostkovyy-alkogolizm-dvoynaya-opasnost).
  3. «Psihologiya podrostka», 1959 g., V. A. Kruteckij.
  4. Profilaktika podrostkovogo alkogolizma, 2016 g., T. I. D’yakonova.