Too often underage drinking is an expectation, not a choice. Across the United States, teenagers and young adults are suffering as a result of their own or others’ drinking. There are increased risks and a range of negative consequences related to underage drinking. Underage alcohol abuse is a growing problem.

Alcohol abuse occurs when someone drinks too often or too much at one time. It starts to negatively impact the individual’s life by ruining relationships, interfering with school, home and work performance. Still, despite the devastating risks, individuals who abuse alcohol usually don’t stop drinking. When a person is dependent on alcohol, they have a strong urge to drink, are unable to stop once they start drinking, experience withdrawal symptoms if they do stop, and need more alcohol to feel similar effects.

It may be tough to tell when drinking alcohol turns into a problem but here are some signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse:

  • Drinking alone
  • Problems remembering things (i.e., blackouts)
  • Legal trouble, like driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Missing class, school assignments or work
  • Spending substantial time recovering from drinking
  • Creating rituals around drinking and getting upset if they’re interrupted
  • Drinking with the goal to get drunk
  • Intoxicated often
  • Keeping alcohol in unexpected places like the car
  • Suffering physical symptoms when not drinking (e.g., nausea, sweating, shaking, restlessness)
  • Having more than four drinks a day (for women) or five (for men)
  • Making excuses for drinking
  • Needing to drink as soon as they wake up

If you or someone you know abuses alcohol, here are some things that can help:

  • Seek help. If alcohol is interfering with your life or you can’t stop drinking on your own, it’s important to see a counselor and get help. Untreated alcohol abuse or dependence has serious complications. Everything in your life can suffer, including school performance, relationships and your health. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead to poor choices and potentially harmful situations.
  • Practice healthy habits. Whether you’re already in treatment or not, taking good care of yourself is vital. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • Stay around people who are supportive. Some friends might not understand why you’re not drinking — or worse, might pressure you to drink. As cliché as it sounds, these are not your friends. Spend time with people who support you and genuinely care about your well-being.

Know that change is possible. There are millions of people who choose to drink more healthily or stop drinking each year, and their lives and the lives of those around them change as a result.

Submitted by: Restorative Justice of NW WI, Inc.

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