Is there such a thing as teenage alcoholism? Let me just answer this question straight away. As I see it, yes; without a doubt. The reason I know? Because as a teenager, I was an alcoholic.
I certainly didn't realize it at the time. (Remember, DENIAL is the main symptom that perpetuates and prolongs this disease.)
I just knew I loved to drink and that I would find any opportunity to drink. Back then, if I was to answer the questions in one of those diagnostic questionnaires, all signs would point to "teenage alcoholic".
As a young person, I was convinced that alcohol relieved my shyness. And on a less conscious level, I drank because it took away my pain.
If there is one thing that separates alcoholics from others it may be that as children we FELT LIKE WE DIDN'T FIT IN. I always felt like life was a private club, and everyone knew the password but ME! Access Denied
So teenage alcoholics drink mainly to fit in to the flow of life and to take away the pain that life inevitably brings. In meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, you hear people say over and over that during those first experiences with alcohol, something "clicked". In my case, I remember thinking, "Now THIS just may be the answer to all my problems!"
Contrary to what some may say, alcoholics don't drink because they like the taste of alcohol. Now, I am not saying that it's impossible to like the taste. I used to savor the taste of a really cold Budweiser! But alcoholics drink for essentially one reason: They like the way it makes them FEEL. Here are some typical thought processes:
Do you notice something about each of the above statements? They're all about relationships or relating to other people. Now think about teenagers. What is the most important aspect of their lives? FRIENDS - GIRLFRIENDS - BOYFRIENDS
Unfortunately, alcohol becomes the perfect solution to relational problems for teenagers.
Teenagers and even preteens can develop this same mental obsession coupled with a physical craving that is characteristic of all alcoholics. In other words, if a person is old enough to have a problem with alcohol, that person is old enough to be an alcoholic.
Books That Bring Hope
If you grew up or are living in a dysfunctional family beset with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, or similar problems, here is a book with an interesting twist called The Dragon In Me. It is geared toward teens and young adults and will help you understand the dynamics of living in this situation and what to do about it.
More great educational resources:
Adolescent Substance Abuse
Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment in the United States
Drug-Taking Behavior Among School-Aged Youth
Childhood and Chemical Abuse
Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Adolescence
Alcoholism/Chemical Dependency and the College Student
Adolescent Substance Abuse
LINK to some great information about teenage alcoholism from the official site of Alcoholics Anonymous