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Does My Teenager Need Alcohol Detox?

Medically Reviewed By: Benjamin Caleb Williams RN, BA, CEN

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 01/24/2021

If your teenager has been abusing alcohol, the first thing to know is that you are not alone! No one person is to blame, and whatever the circumstances, recovery is possible. The sooner alcohol use is addressed, the chances of more serious side effects decrease significantly. Here we will look at the role parents may play in the recovery of their teen, and present some options for entering an alcohol detox.

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Facts About Teen Drinking

Alcoholism is a major issue which many people struggle with, not just the stereotypical homeless drunk living under a bridge. Alcohol use usually begins in someone’s teens or early twenties, and if someone has a predisposition towards alcoholic behavior, this can escalate very quickly. It is unfortunately not that uncommon for a teenager to need alcohol detox, as alcoholism does not discriminate based on age. To illustrate, some facts and statistics regarding teen drinking may help:

  • Each year about 4,300 people under age 21 die from injuries due to alcohol consumption.
  • Approximately 2,000 people under the age of 21 die from driving drunk or getting in a car with a drunk driver.
  • More deaths occur from teen drinking each year than from teen drug use.
  • 47% of adolescent sexual assault victims seeking treatment from a sexual assault crisis intervention center reported that alcohol and/or drugs were used just before the assault.
  • 49% of the adolescent sexual assault victims seeking treatment in an emergency department reported that alcohol and/or illegal substances were used by the perpetrator and/or victim immediately before the assault.
  • People who drink alcohol for long periods of time are at a higher risk for developing cancer, for example, beginning at an early age and continuing into adulthood

Parents Play A Vital Role

A recent study in Australia published in the journal BMC Public Health was conducted on 2,800 Australian teens ages 12-17. The study clearly showed just how influential the parents’ take on teen drinking can be.

One of the major messages from our study is that parents have more influence on their teenagers’ decisions regarding alcohol than they probably realize. Parental behavior and attitudes towards alcohol really do make a difference, and can help prevent children from drinking at an early age.” says lead author Jacqueline Bowden, behavioral scientist and Manager of Population Health Research at SAHMRI, and researcher with the School of Psychology, University of Adelaide.

This influence also extends to getting your child help when they are drinking too much. You can facilitate lifesaving help by finding them an alcohol detox program.

Does My Teenager Really Need Alcohol Detox?

Besides safely overseeing the detox process, an alcohol detox will offer a range of therapy options which will help establish a foundation in recovery, and build upon the skills and behaviors that are needed to remain sober. Not to mention the fact that alcohol detox may reduce the risk of potentially fatal complications, as alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. Being a teenager is hard enough, giving them a safe and therapeutic environment can pay a lifetime of dividends. Talk to a primary care doctor, contact a local alcohol detox center and ask as many questions as you can.

What Types of Alcohol Detox Programs Are Available?

There are different options available when choosing the right detox program, each with benefits unique to themselves. For a teenager or young adult, there are two types of detox programs which are most common:

  • Inpatient Detox: If a teenager could benefit from 24/7 observation, and temporary isolation from outside influences, then inpatient residential facilities may be the best choice. While inpatient alcohol detox programs can be more costly than other options, they offer secure and around-the-clock medical and mental health care, which are the primary benefits of this type of treatment. Time in this detox program can vary from 4-10 days.
  • Outpatient Detox: Outpatient programs can be beneficial for teenagers because they will receive intensive medical and mental health therapy, but will still be at home at night, which can help to immediately strengthen the family bond. Outpatient detox will be less expensive than inpatient programs because patients are not sleeping at the facility, but the quality of care and depth of therapy will be roughly comparable to an inpatient treatment facility.
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How Can I Tell If My Teenager is Going Through Withdrawal?

Pay close attention to your teenager’s health as well as their behavior. Common physical withdrawal symptoms would include shaking, sweating, insomnia, and nausea. Common emotional symptoms would include anxiety, depressive mood, mood swings, and irritability. You know your teenager better than anyone; if they are showing these symptoms, medical supervision may be required.

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?

Many factors can influence the length of time it takes to safely remove alcohol from the body. This includes underlying medical conditions, both physical and mental, as well as the severity of the symptoms of withdrawal as they manifest. For a typical teenaged person, when under medical supervision, complete detox from alcohol could take between 3-5 days.

What is the Timeline for Alcohol Withdrawal?

Can I Just Detox At Home?

In short, no, since detox from alcohol can be extremely dangerous with serious complications including seizures and delirium tremens, a sometimes fatal side effect of alcohol withdrawal. Also, detox methods at home frequently involve an alcohol tapering method which may be less desirable for teenagers because of the risks involved with further exposure to alcohol.

Professional medical support is always recommended for alcohol detox. The medical support received during alcohol detox at a facility will ensure safety, and the presence of mental health professionals will help address underlying issues related to a teen’s alcoholism, and help give them support and direction towards furthering their recovery.

Dangers of At Home Alcohol Detox

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