Underage drinking is a growing problem and it can lead to
life-changing negative consequences such as crime, fatalities, pregnancy and problems
at school. Does a peer you care about — a good friend or boyfriend — have a drinking
problem? Has alcohol become a big part of his or her life? Is your friend depending
on alcohol to get them through the week? Find out how to know if they have a drinking
problem and what to do.
Does Your Friend Have a Drinking Problem?
There are clear signs of an alcohol problem. Here are a few:
Someone with a teenage drinking problem might…
be secretive about their drinking (They hide it or drink alone).
be in "denial": They refuse to admit they have a problem,
even though his or her behavior clearly proves there is an issue.
experience blackouts: They sometimes can't remember what
happened while they were drinking. This adds to the denial because if you call them
out on their behavior, they think you’re crazy.
have "personality changes": A lot of people get silly or
"tipsy" when they drink. An alcoholic becomes a "different person." He or she might
get angry, violent or do things that you know aren't "her."
not be able to stop: A social drinker might stop when they
think they've had enough. An alcoholic usually doesn't know she's had enough, and
wouldn't be able to stop even if she did.
How to Help
Maybe you've felt like you can help your friend. You believe
that if you just said or did the right thing, he or she would stop. Unfortunately
those with substance abuse problems don't get better until he or she decides help
is needed. Until then, there are a few things you can do:
Be responsible, and if you are under 21, you shouldn’t be
drinking at all. The legal age to drink is 21. It’s the law. Encourage your friends
to do activities where alcohol isn’t likely to be present. If you get caught where
there is underage drinking, there will be legal consequences that will affect your
Tell your friend you're worried about his/her drinking and
then gently suggest they try to get help (through a therapist, rehab or through
Confide in an adult or someone else whom you trust. That
person may be able to help you sort through the issue and maybe get your friend
to get some help.
Know that you're not the cause of anyone's drinking behavior.
Understand that you can't change or control anyone but yourself.
Detach yourself emotionally from your friend's problems while
continuing to care about her. Don't make her problems your problems and don't try
to cover up for her. Surround yourself with people who do positive things and don’t
put you at risk.
Believe that you deserve to develop your own potential —
no matter what happens with your friend.
Take Care of You
Being the friend of an alcoholic is draining. It's hard watching
someone you love hurt herself that way. However, remember that it’s important to
take care of you. There are nice people who can help you deal with it all. It’s
best if you reach out for help and be hopeful that things can change.
If you find yourself feeling depressed or overwhelmed, talk
to a school counselor or join a support group like Alateen. This is a program for
teenagers whose lives are affected by someone else's drinking — friends or family.
Alateen has meetings in every city that are free and confidential. You can call
Alateen for free at (800) 356-9996.
Get insight into teenage drinking and read helpful information at BeingGirl.com.