MT: Partners in Prevention – Recognize the signs your child may be using alcohol

Mark Willingham Uncategorized

MT: Partners in Prevention – Recognize the signs your child may be using alcohol

Havre Daily News
October 4, 2022

Are you wondering if your child may have an alcohol problem? We can help you recognize the signs of alcohol abuse.

An alarming 1 in 4 — 29 percent — Montana teens report drinking alcohol within the past month. And 18 percent of teens admit to binge drinking in the past 30 days.

Those are the latest statistics captured in the 2020 Montana Prevention Needs Assessment Survey, conducted by the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services.

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration — SAMHSA — there are several signs parents can watch out for when it comes to alcohol abuse. But it’s important to remember that these warning signs or behaviors can also reflect normal growing pains.

“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,” writes SAMHSA in “Talk — They Hear You,” its national media campaign for underage drinking.

So what should concerned parents be on the lookout for? This list of seven drinking indicators is a good place to start, according to SAMHSA.

  • Mood changes. Flare-ups of temper, irritability and defensiveness.
  • School problems. Poor attendance, low grades and or recent disciplinary action.
  • Rebellion. Deliberately acting out against family rules.
  • Friend changes. Switching friends 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.
  • Alcohol presence. Finding it in your child’s room or backpack or smelling alcohol on his or her breath.
  • Physical or mental problems. Memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech.

Despite the fact that drinking alcohol is legal in the U.S. for adults ages 21 and over, it’s important to remember that booze is a mood-altering and powerful drug.

“Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Here are just five reasons you should encourage your teen or adolescent to pass on alcohol.

  • Risky behavior. Alcohol is linked to teen deaths by traffic crashes, drowning, suicide and homicide.
  • Sexual activity. Teens who drink alcohol are more likely to engage in unplanned and unsafe sex.
  • Addiction. Young teens who drink are more likely to develop alcohol dependence issues than a person who waits until adulthood to drink.
  • Concentration. Using alcohol can negatively affect teens’ brain development, which can cause memory issues later on in life.
  • Serious health issues. Abusing alcohol can have devastating consequences for an individual, damaging internal organs like the liver and kidneys.

If you find out your child has indeed been drinking, it can be tempting to play the blame game.

“Do not feel bad if you did not see the warning signs until your child was in trouble or until someone told you about the problem,” explains SAMHSA. “In getting help for a child who drinks, the first thing to do is try not to blame yourself or your child.”

Parents and those in a parenting role can have a significant impact on whether their children drink or engage in other risky behaviors. Parents can engage with their children, at any age, to reduce the likelihood of underage drinking and other risky behaviors.

Most Montana parents have protective beliefs about preventing underage drinking:

  • Most Montana parents believe underage drinking is not acceptable.
  • Most Montana parents disapprove of underage drinking.
  • Most Montana parents believe all parents should not allow high school age children to drink alcohol in their homes.

Montana parents are encouraged to talk and learn more about underage substance abuse and prevention information through the Montana-based social media campaign entitled Let’s Face It. The program provides parents of children of all ages the opportunity to learn more about the dangers of underage substance abuse. Join the conversation at or the public Facebook site @letsfaceitmt.