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Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?

Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?

Gateway drugs are substances that are thought to lead to the use of more dangerous or addictive substances. The top three gateway drugs are thought to be nicotine (cigarettes), marijuana, and alcohol. The group of people that are most likely to develop an addiction from using gateway drugs is adolescents. Since the human brain is not considered fully developed until the age of 25, young people are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of chemical substances.

Alcohol, in particular, is recognized as a leading gateway drug. Alcohol consumption causes abnormal inflammation in the brain, making it especially dangerous for young people. It is important to understand the harmful effects that alcohol use can have on the brain and to recognize the substance as a dangerous gateway drug.

How Does Alcohol Use Lead To Addiction?

Teens or young adults may initially choose to experiment with alcohol because they are curious about the substance’s effects. Since many families keep alcohol in their homes, it is one of the easiest substances for young people to access. While the decision to try alcohol may be voluntary, the chemical effects of alcohol hijack several areas of an individual’s brain.

Some of the ways that repeated alcohol use primes adolescents for experimenting with other substances may include:

Exposure to Dopamine Surges

Dopamine is a chemical that influences the brain’s reward center associated with identifying and motivating pleasurable behavior. Chemical substances like alcohol trigger abnormal surges of dopamine in the brain and body. The use of alcohol even one time triggers a dopamine surge, which the brain identifies as pleasurable. Then, the brain will continue to motivate substance-seeking and substance-using behavior as means of achieving repeated dopamine surges.

With repeated use, an individual will experience an increase in alcohol tolerance. This means that they will need to drink more each time to achieve desired effects. Eventually, the brain will recognize alcohol use as normal, and no longer trigger dopamine surges as intensely as before. This leads individuals to seek highs through harsher drugs.

Experiencing Increased Inhibition and Impulsivity

Being under the influence of alcohol can reduce inhibition and increase impulsivity, which can cause individuals to act in ways that they never would while sober. Some of those actions may include experimenting with harsher drugs, especially if they are not in the right frame of mind to consider the consequences or risks. Young people are especially prone to the influences of peer pressure and curiosity if they are already buzzed from alcohol.

Normalizing Party Drugs

If getting drunk with friends is considered normal for teenagers, it is only a matter of time before teens progress to other drug use. Teens may start to believe that “everyone is doing it” even if they aren’t, which may encourage experimentation. They may not yet see the consequences of long-term substance use among their friend group, which can lead them to believe that it is not harmful. Normalizing one type of behavior makes it easier to progress down a path they may not have anticipated.

Why Young People Are Especially at Risk for Addiction

The developing brain is uniquely vulnerable to both mental health disorders and substance use disorders, such as addiction. Eager to feel accepted by others, it’s relatively easy for adolescents to get involved in dangerous crowds and engage in risk-taking behaviors that they may not realize are harmful.

Unfortunately, adolescents tend to lack the foresight to see how the consequences of one decision can impact their future. A substance use disorder that develops from underage drinking can carry physical, emotional, and psychological consequences well into adulthood.

Additional Risk Factors

In general, some people are more likely to develop substance use disorders than others. Individuals that experience the following risk factors may be more likely to use alcohol as a gateway drug:


Genetics shed light on an individual’s unique, chemical makeup. If an individual has a family member or relative that uses substances or has been diagnosed with a substance use disorder, they are more likely to experiment with substances at some point in their life.

Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders

A co-occurring disorder is the presence of both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. If an individual is already struggling with their mental health or associated diagnosis, they are more likely to use substances. They may turn to substances as an attempt to self-medicate their symptoms or because they are genuinely curious about the substance’s effects.

Childhood Trauma

Unfortunately, not every family knows how to cope when trauma affects a child. This could be anything from a tragic accident, an illness, or abuse. Children who suffer from untreated trauma are also at increased risk of substance use and addiction later in life.

Alcohol is a harmful substance for the developing brain. As adolescents and teens age, they may become exposed to the effects of alcohol through their friend groups. It is essential to recognize that alcohol is a gateway drug that can cause young children to be curious about the effects of other substances. It is important to know what factors can increase an individual’s risk of using alcohol and other substances. If your child is struggling, understand that treatment is available. Clearfork Academy has evidence-based solutions for teenagers struggling with alcohol or substance abuse. Our outdoor, faith-based program is run by experienced, compassionate staff to help your teen on8 the road to recovery. We offer detox, inpatient, and residential treatment programs depending on the severity of your teen’s condition. To learn more about our treatment center, reach out to us today by calling (88) 966-8604.

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What Is Teen Alcohol Poisoning?

What Is Teen Alcohol Poisoning?

Teens experiencing alcohol poisoning are on the rise. Alcohol poisoning usually results from binge drinking and can lead to death if left untreated. Understanding the signs and symptoms is critical. Parents who have children in their late teens should be aware of alcohol poisoning.

What Is Teen Alcohol Poisoning?

Teen alcohol poisoning is a severe medical emergency. It occurs when someone consumes a large amount of alcohol in a short period. The more they drink, the higher their blood alcohol concentration (BAC). BAC is determined by several factors, including body type, weight, and gender. Alcohol overdose can also be caused by drinking on an empty stomach or binge drinking over several hours.

Alcohol poisoning can cause the body to shut down and quit functioning. When a person consumes too much alcohol at once, their blood alcohol level can exceed 0.4%. At this level, a person can experience difficulty breathing, become comatose, or die from suffocation due to vomiting while unconscious.

Risks of Teen Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks too much alcohol in a short time. If alcohol is consumed quickly, the body can’t process it fast enough, and the person becomes drunk. Their blood-alcohol level is higher than their liver can handle. Eventually, this can cause damage to other organs, including the brain and heart.  

Other potential causes of teen alcohol poisoning include the following:

  • Alcohol can cause an insufficient supply of oxygen to reach vital organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs, leading to organ failure or brain damage. Alcohol also depresses a person’s gag reflex, making them more likely to choke on their vomit and die.
  • Alcohol dilates blood vessels and slows breathing and heart rate. This may lead someone experiencing alcohol poisoning to develop hypothermia because their body cannot regulate its temperature correctly. 
  • Alcohol poisoning can also result in coma and even death due to a lack of oxygen reaching the organs. It can cause fatal injury due to coordination problems or loss of consciousness caused by excessive amounts of alcohol.

What Happens During an Episode of  Alcohol Poisoning?

Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time can overwhelm the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol. The amount of alcohol in a teen’s bloodstream rises to dangerous levels and interferes with their central nervous system, regulating involuntary heart rate, body temperature, and breathing. 

A teen’s breathing can slow down or stop, their heart rate can also slow down or stop, and their body temperature can drop dangerously low. 

The Cost of Alcohol Poisoning

A teen suffering from alcohol poisoning is at risk of suffering seizures, coma, and even death.  As the depressed central nervous system shuts down, it can lead to coma or death. Or, if the breathing and gag reflexes slow down or stop working, the teen can stop breathing and choke on their vomit. A teen with alcohol poisoning may suffer a heart attack or brain damage.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Every second counts when it comes to receiving medical attention. In some cases, waiting even an hour can lead to permanent brain damage or death from hypothermia, choking on vomit, or heart problems caused by drinking too much too quickly.

You should seek help if you notice these symptoms:

  • Someone passes out and cannot wake up
  • Someone is breathing less than eight times per minute or taking more than 10 seconds between breaths
  • Someone has a seizure
  • Someone’s skin is pale or blueish
  • Someone has a low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Slow breathing (less than ten breaths per minute)
  • Vomits while sleeping or passed out and doesn’t wake up when vomiting, increasing the risk of choking

Reasons Why More Teens Are Experiencing Alcohol Poisoning

There are several reasons why more teens today experience alcohol poisoning. The following are four reasons why parents should be concerned about teen alcohol poisoning:

  • Drinking problem among teens: According to a recent report, the rate of drinking has dropped over the last decade. However, this does not mean that there are fewer underage drinkers. A recent survey reported that “19% of young people aged 12 to 20 years reported drinking alcohol.” 
  • The party culture: Many high school and college students consider binge drinking part of the “party culture.” While some students may drink once or twice, others may drink every weekend. A recent study found that “4.2 million young people reported binge drinking at least once in the past month.” 
  • More money, more access to liquor: Teens who have jobs or a steady income may be able to buy more alcohol. Ease of access to liquor at home also increases the risk that teens will consume more than their bodies can handle.

Alcohol poisoning, also called acute alcohol poisoning (AAP), is extremely dangerous. AAP causes severe complications and can lead to death. If left untreated, it can progress into severe complications and life-threatening situations. For teenagers, it can interfere with brain development. At Clearfork Academy, we understand that individuals who have a history of drinking too much are prone to alcohol poisoning. Understanding the signs is essential. We provide a comprehensive program to assist teens in regaining their lives and maintaining lasting recovery. You don’t want to see your child struggle with alcohol or drugs, and while it can be challenging to know how to handle things., we can help. We believe that proper treatment is the key. If your teen is using alcohol or other substances, the time to get help is today. Find out more by contacting our admissions team at (888) 966-8604

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A Guide for Parents: How to Better Support Your Sober Teen

A Guide For Parents: How to Better Support Your Sober Teen

Supporting a teen in recovery is an exciting time. While this is a moment to celebrate progress, the work doesn’t stop after inpatient or outpatient treatment. As a parent, knowing how to support your child’s sober lifestyle after treatment will prepare them for long-term sobriety. 

Here are six tips to help you offer support for your child’s sobriety after intensive treatment

#1. Be a Good Support System 

Treatment centers and programs offer a constant professional support system for your child. However, when it’s time for your teen to come back home, you will become the ultimate and constant support system that they will need to lean on. Aftercare is always an option, but you are their caregiver and will be with them for the majority of their day. 

One of the most important aspects of teen addiction recovery is family involvement. It is not an easy task, but it is necessary to make sure your teen stays on the right track. Being a good support system means providing them with emotional, mental, and physical support. Validating their emotions, being a listening ear, and offering a shoulder to lean all contribute to helping prevent relapse

#2. Keep Communication Open 

Poor communication could be one of the most damaging aspects of your parent-child relationship. Poor communication habits may involve constant lying, arguing, manipulation, or avoiding communication altogether. It is vital to develop strong communication skills through individual and family therapy. Knowing how to respectfully and truthfully talk to one another will be key to working towards long-term sobriety. 

While respecting boundaries and allowing your child the space to be themselves, walking on eggshells or keeping secrets should no longer be allowed. Creating a new relationship where your child feels safe enough to tell you when they slip up or express their emotions will be essential to developing good communication in the future.

#3. Don’t Bring Up the Past

Everyone makes mistakes. You can’t change the past, and you can’t predict the future. You must focus on the present moment and understand who you and your child are now that you are both on the journey to recovery. Constantly reminding your child of their past actions can be hurtful to their recovery. 

Addiction is a complex and damaging disease that is extremely hard for a parent to watch their children battle. The healing process won’t be overnight and won’t happen in front of everyone. Allow your child room to grow into someone new and accept them for who they become. 

#4. Rebuild the Relationship

In order to rebuild a relationship after addiction, you both should acknowledge that you are not the same person as before. Spend time with your child and get to know them better and who they are becoming after treatment. Show them that you care and are willing to do your part in making amends. Forgiveness and full trust will take time, and building a new relationship won’t happen overnight. An effort is necessary from both ends for a new connection to develop.

#5. Educate Yourself on Addiction

The saying “addiction is a disease” is real. It means there is much to study about addiction to understand it. Addiction is not limited to alcohol or hard drugs. Identify what kind of addiction your teen has and start doing your research. Learn the causes and risk factors along with symptoms and how they change the brain. 

Understanding the complexities of addiction and what it encompasses will help you understand what they are going through and give you insight on how to help. It can also bring a sense of compassion when you understand that it is the addiction and drugs causing your child’s behavior and not who they are. 

#6. Keep Them Accountable

Codependent relationships are very common for people with addiction. In the past, it may have been hard to stand your ground against your child who was battling addiction. Now that they have entered sobriety, accountability will be crucial to staying successful and becoming independent. Your teen should incorporate goals in their treatment plan. Help them stick to the goals they set, and hold them accountable when they don’t follow through. 

The road to long-term sobriety is not a straight path, so know that there will be slip-ups and a few bumps in the road. Offer them grace and compassion but still remind them what they are striving to accomplish. Try to help them stay as consistent as possible with their goals and any treatment they have left. 

Whether your teen is just starting to use drugs or whether they are under the weight of addiction, it is never too late or too soon to reach out for help. Clearfork Academy is committed to helping our patients grow and recover from their addiction and restore their relationships with their families. Addiction recovery is not a task any parent should have to do alone. We offer programs that give both you and your child the tools you need to continue living a sober lifestyle after intensive treatment. Substance use disorders can also perpetuate underlying mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, or anxiety. At Clearfork, we aim to get to the root of their addiction, which is why we also work to treat any underlying co-occurring mental health disorder. If your teen is in need of addiction or mental health treatment, get help today. To learn more, call Clearfork Academy at (888) 966-8604

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How to Spot Alcohol or Drug Activity?

Mother embracing her teen daughter to comfort her

Parents play a huge role in the lives of their children. They know their kids better than anyone else and are on hand to notice when something isn’t right. That’s why every parent needs to be aware of the signs to look out for regarding alcohol or drug abuse in teens.

Here are some ways to spot alcohol or drug use to help your teen stay safe and healthy.

How to Detect Alcohol or Drug Activity

Alcohol or drug use can be challenging to detect. However, there are some tell-tale signs that your teen is struggling with substance abuse. One of the best ways to detect alcohol or drug use in teens is to look at their space, including their room and postings on social media. Their activity on social media may tell you about your teen’s problems.

Another way to detect alcohol or drug use is to monitor your teen’s behavior. If your teen has sudden mood swings, seems more withdrawn, and starts hanging out with people they don’t usually hang out with, these are all indicators that something might be wrong.

Communicate With Your Child

You and your teen need to establish an open dialogue about subjects like drugs and alcohol. Listen to your child and withhold judgment when they speak. Doing so will build trust and help your child understand that you support them.

Together, you and your child can address what is bothering them and find ways to help manage the symptoms they are experiencing. You should consider seeking professional care to provide additional methods to help your child overcome the challenges of school and life that may trigger them to use substances.

Tell-Tale Signs of Drug Use or Consumption of Alcohol

The effects of alcohol and drugs vary depending on the person and how often they use them. It’s not always easy to spot a person using these substances because some don’t show outward signs. Some of the most common symptoms include changes in behavior, appearance, and emotions. The following list highlights the tell-tale signs:

Mental Health Related Signs of Substance Use:

  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue and decreased motivation
  • Increased paranoia and hallucinations caused by high doses and intense periods of substance use
  • Have difficulty focusing on the tasks at hand
  • Exhibit antisocial behavior such as aggression or increased impulsiveness
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Suspiciousness of others, including you as a parent
  • Inability to focus or concentrate a decrease in short-term memory

Physical Signs of Substance Use:

  • Constant bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils (than usual)
  • Rubbing the nose frequently because of a continuously running or irritable nose
  • Redness of the skin around the mouth
  • A lack of coordination with movement due to impaired brain function
  • Dilated nostrils or mouth due to snorting or inhalation
  • An odor, like alcohol,  on the breath or clothes
  • Decrease in appetite with consequent weight loss over time
  • Track marks on arms or legs from intravenous drug use
  • Needles and syringes are lying around
  • Small baggies with white powder lying around their stuff
  • Withdrawal symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, agitation)
  • There are more scabs or bruises from picking at skin compulsively (common among people who abuse stimulants)

Behavioral Signs of Substance Use:

  • A sudden change in friends or hanging out with a new crowd
  • Anger issues such as rage attacks (breaking things)
  • Exhibit antisocial behavior such as aggression or increased impulsiveness
  • New or more significant secretive behavior
  • Sudden changes in grades
  • Staying out late, withdrawing from the family, or wanting to isolate
  • Problems with the law, such as frequent run-ins with police
  • Stealing objects in the house that they can sell or asking you for money
  • Vague responses when asked what’s wrong or how they feel; their answer is always “fine” or “good”
  • Lack of motivation or interest in activities once enjoyed by the individual
  • Increased absenteeism from school or extracurricular activities

If you see any of these signs in your teen, it’s essential to talk to them and get them help.

How to Help Your Teen?

Parents can help their teens recover from drugs with treatment, including counseling, drug education, medication, and family therapy. Parents can also provide support by participating in their child’s recovery process via counseling and by continuing to strengthen the lines of communication. The more resources for help you provide your child, the better chance they have at a successful recovery.

At Clearfork Academy, our treatment programs involve therapy, holistic services, education on relapse prevention, and peer support to reduce the urge for substance use.

If you find yourself questioning whether your teen is drinking or doing drugs, take action. Talk with them, educate yourself about substance use, and get them the help they need. At Clearfork Academy, we encourage and help parents lookout for any signs of alcohol or drugs. Our programs help educate parents and teens about substance use. Having an understanding of substance use will also allow parents, teens, and health professionals with diagnosis and find appropriate treatment. We provide evidence-based treatments, various therapeutic options, and holistic services that serve your teen’s recovery goals. Our goal is to help your teen overcome substance use and establish the confidence necessary to live life to its fullest potential. Stop your teen’s struggles with substance use from worsening by contacting our specialists at Clearfork Academy. Our admissions are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn more about our programs, contact us today by calling (888) 966-8604.