We tend to think of alcoholics as people who have trouble keeping jobs or who spiral out of control. However, many people, including teenagers, maybe abusing alcohol without the typical outward signs. Here are some common traits of high-functioning, alcoholic teens:

They’re able to succeed (they may keep their grades afloat or even hold a job)

-Their success in school is probably important to them

An HFA teen might be popular, with an active social life

-They appear to be in control

-They’re able to conceal their addiction quite well

-They may eventually experience memory lapses

-Their concentration and grades potentially drop

-They might become withdrawn and isolated

Symptoms of High Functioning Alcoholism in Teens

The following maybe some of the signs or contributing factors in an HFA teen:

-Extreme remorse when caught drinking

Memory loss

Using alcohol to escape or relax 

-Family history of alcoholism

Drinking in secret

-Disorders such as ADD or ADHD

Since they don’t fit the typical alcoholic stereotype, HFA teens are much less likely to get the help they need. Without help, they may go undiagnosed for an extended period of time. Even after parents catch on, it may be extremely difficult to get them to cooperate with treatment. Here are a few helpful suggestions:

STEP 1: Help your teen understand the negative consequences their drinking can have on themselves as well as their family. Be ready to provide not only factual observations but the resulting feelings as well. It can help to create a list of how drinking affects you and to work with the entire family to do the same.

STEP 2: Learn as much as you can about alcoholism.

STEP 3: Seek professional guidance, which may include counseling, planning an intervention, seeking help from a rehab center, or participating in programs like the Community Reinforcement and Family Training Model (CRAFT). CRAFT is especially helpful in building awareness among members of the family about what to say to an alcoholic AND how to say it. The model teaches you how to stay safe around an alcohol problem and how to set boundaries. It also has been effective at getting teens into treatment.

STEP 4: Encourage addiction recovery and building positive habits. Once your teen has accepted help and entered treatment, be an active part of family therapy. Join the treatment community. Consider the use of medications and be informed about treatments. Follow your teen’s treatment progression by communicating regularly with her/his case manager or counselor.

STEP 5: And as always, while it must be made clear that their behavior is harmful, you also need to show unconditional love and support. Addiction is a defined, medical condition. Put judgment, shame, and guilt aside, and instead display patience, love, and support. This kind of mindset can work great for a kid addressing the deeply rooted beliefs and values that compel drinking in the first place.

At Asana Recovery, we understand how difficult recovering from these addictions through our daily work to help those struggling most from this disease. While some may believe they can make it alone, rehabilitation programs are essential in the fight to break the dependency. The road ahead is not a smooth or easy one, but you can traverse it if done so with the support of the right team. 

We’re deeply committed to ensuring your long-term recovery and guiding you on your path to a healthier and happier future. There is no better time than now, and we’re always available to speak with you. Call us at (949) 438-4504 to learn more about our comprehensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment program today.


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