Pages Menu

Column originally published Mar 27, 2018

Teenagers Drinking Alcohol

Question: We just found out that our daughter was drinking alcohol at a friend’s birthday party. We thought the parents would be there, but they went out for the evening. There was alcohol in the house, and all of them drank. She called us when she felt sick, and we went to pick her up. We hope she has learned her lesson; we have talked about the danger of alcohol at home before this happened. She has been taking ADHD medicine since grade 3. Her medicine worked very well until about a year ago. Now, she says that it doesn’t work any more, and wants to stop. She is in grade 10, and her marks have dropped lately. Some days, we wonder whether she took her medicine or not. What should we do?


After cigarette, alcohol is one of the most common drug teenagers use. Easy access is part of the reason. Many parents have alcohol at home, and it is difficult to monitor all the time. Allowing teenagers to party at home without parents around is a set up for underage drinking. Teenagers are curious about alcohol; they know that they are below the legal drinking age. Peer pressure is likely another important factor.

I am glad that she called for help, likely because you have talked about the danger of alcohol at home. Driving under influence (DUI) is a major cause of serious automobile injury and death. We should not call them accidents, because they are bound to happen sooner or later after drinking.

The danger of DUI is not limited to the driver, but everyone in the car, as well as those in other vehicles involved in the tragedy. It also affects their families and friends, as well as first responders and healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, in the spur of the moment, these teenagers would not consider the serious consequence of drinking.

Teenage drinking often leads to a lifetime of alcoholism. They may not like the taste of alcohol when they first try. Alcohol does reduce inhibition; they feel more relaxed and chatty. With repeated exposure, their tolerance increases and they can drink increasing amount without feeling dizzy or sick. They get hooked without recognizing it. They can go from weekend drinking to daily drinking; not able to do well in school or at work.

Your daughter may be more susceptible to drinking because of her underlying Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). She has noticed that her medicine is not working as well as before. There may be days that she didn’t take her medicine, and you may not even know. When a child grows, her body needs a higher dose of medicine.

Without effective ADHD medicine, she can be more impulsive, and more willing to try things that are harmful. Her impulsiveness can make it harder for her to exercise self-control. You should bring her to your doctor and discuss about her ADHD medication. It is very possible that her medicine needs to be adjusted to become more effective. You should also supervise her medicine, make sure that she takes it instead of just saying that she has.

When medicine is working well, it will reduce her impulsivity; her school performance and her self-esteem will improve. She may decide to change her friends, and stay away from those who use alcohol and drugs.

You should continue to have frank discussions with her about the danger of alcohol and other drugs. Make sure she feels supported, and if she happens to drink, she can feel comfortable to call you. Your whole family can avoid a lifetime of pain and regret.