Are you worried about teens and alcohol? You’re not alone.
Across the nation, teen alcohol abuse is a big problem – the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance found that some 30% of teens reported drinking within the past 30 days.
The risk is exacerbated by the fact that it may be hard to know for sure if a child is developing an alcohol problem. When kids drink alcohol, they often develop myriad ways to keep it a secret. It’s not uncommon for kids to hide alcohol in toiletry bottles, or even to carry it around in sports drink or water bottles.
But there are steps that parents can take to fight this challenge. Knowing where to check for booze and understanding how to talk with teens about alcohol can help parents be better prepared to help their kids if they have a problem.
Storing liquor in a mouthwash bottle is one common way to hide alcohol. Some teens make it a practice to empty out the mouthwash, pour in a clear liquor, and add other colored liquids or food coloring to make it look like the original product.
Teens also may curtail the law and try to get drunk by ingesting mouthwash with alcohol. Mouthwash can contain between 5 and 27% ethanol. Parents should keep an eye on any mouthwash that their family members use and monitor just how fast the bottle is being consumed. If someone suspects their child is trying to get access to alcohol, they may want to try buying alcohol-free mouthwash for their family.
Kids may use shampoo bottles to hide alcohol. Some teens are known to empty and rinse out the bottles before adding booze, especially if it’s a shampoo bottle that no one else in the family uses. It’s also possible to buy empty bottles online, so if parents see a brand of shampoo around their house that they don’t remember buying, they should check to see if there is any alcohol in the shampoo bottle. Additionally, if parents find any toiletry bottles sitting in their child’s room or in other unusual places outside the bathroom, they should find out whether the bottle’s contents have been altered.
Sports Drink Bottles
Many people who hide their drinking mix Gatorade and alcohol. Teens who are beginning to experiment with alcohol may find that using sweeter or flavored drinks as mixers helps to dull the often harsh taste of hard liquor. Additionally, sports drink bottles are very easy to transport and typically don’t look suspicious to adults and authority figures.
Keeping an eye on what teenagers are drinking and noting whether they bring drink bottles with them when they go out with friends can help parents detect whether their children might be mixing alcohol and Gatorade or other sports drinks. Parents can also look for stashes of empty sports drink or soda bottles that their teens might be saving for later use. Parents who monitor what their children drink may help prevent teen alcohol use.
When teens meet up with their friends, they may use hidden alcohol flasks to hide their drinking.
After all, standard flasks can hold 8 ounces of liquor and easily fit into pants or jacket pockets.
Alternately, there are a lot of secret flasks available that look like other objects, but are actually meant to store alcohol. For example, some stores sell sunscreen alcohol bottles that look like normal bottles of sunscreen or other objects like binoculars. If a teen suddenly starts carrying around a new or unusual item, they may actually be using the item to store alcohol. A hidden binoculars flask or fake booze bottle can be easily carried around in a purse or bookbag, so parents should keep an eye on whether their teen’s bag suddenly looks heavier than normal.
Fake Water Bottles
Kids sometimes hide alcohol in other drink bottles as well. Teens may replace water with vodka or another clear liquor, or use a non-clear water bottle to disguise the alcohol inside. If a teen frequently carries around a certain bottle with them when they meet up with friends, parents can try sniffing the liquid inside to see if they detect ethanol.
Another way that teens are hiding alcohol in water bottles is by altering the bottle itself to make it look less questionable. Some people cut the water bottles and add a hidden compartment, so that water is still stored on top and any boozy smell is masked. Others have found ways to open water bottles, replace the contents, and then reseal the bottles so that they look brand new.
What Should I Do If I Find Alcohol?
If you are finding hidden alcohol containers around the house, it may likely be a clear sign that your teen is abusing alcohol. Keep an eye out for other signs of alcohol abuse as well, including loud and boisterous behavior, memory loss and depression. If your teen is abusing alcohol regularly, they may also give up some of their normal activities or start doing poorly in school or work due to drunkenness or hangovers.
If you find a secret flask or discover that your teen has mixed liquor into their drink, the first step is talking to them about the issue. Try not to criticize or pass judgment. Instead, listen to them, offer them support and let them know you’re coming from a place of love. If you know your teen is drinking or if you think you need further help with teen alcohol abuse, it’s a good idea to reach out to professionals who can offer guidance to both you and your teen.
The Recovery Village offers specialists who can tell you more about teen alcohol rehab. Talk to our team today if you want more information about teen treatment centers or other treatment options that might help your family. Reaching out can help set your teen on a healthier path.
Kann, Laura; McManus, Tim; Harris, William A.; Shanklin, Shari L.; et al. “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2017.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 15, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2019.
Lachenmeier, Dirk W.; Gumbel-Mako, Szidonia; Sohnius, Eva-Maria; Keck-Wilhelm, Andrea; et al. “Salivary acetaldehyde increase due to alcohol‐containing mouthwash use: A risk factor for oral cancer.” International Journal of Cancer, February 23, 2009. Accessed August 2, 2019.