Binge-drinking is seen by many as a rite of passage for teens and young adults, but one teen's struggle with alcoholism highlights the health impacts of the practice. YNN's Erin Billups filed the following report.
After three years of binge-drinking, Siobhan has been sober for about three months.
"I mean at first it was just a social thing. Whenever I went out I was like, 'Okay, I have to drink, because everyone else is drinking," Siobhan says.
But drinking quickly became a problem for Siobhan, who was then 14-years-old.
"Every time I drank, I would drink to the point where I was belligerent or people would have to be helping me," Siobhan says. "I couldn't stand. I would get very mean and violent."
Siobhan is now 17.
Her struggle with alcohol is a familiar story, often brushed aside as a phase kids go through.
"About 20 percent of kids start drinking between nine and 13-years-old," says NY Center For Living Medical Director Dr. Marianne Chai.
Chai works with Siobhan and other patients ranging from 13 to 26 and their families, helping them gain control over their addictions.
Chai says binge-drinking remains a major problem in the U.S. and is something 20 percent of high school seniors engage in, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
"Their brain is profoundly affected," Chai says. "We know that memory centers are affected and learning centers are affected, and that these changes, the longer they go on, the harder they are to reverse."
The stigma surrounding alcoholism many times prevents people from getting the help they need.
An important part of treatment and recovery for Siobhan was recognizing and addressing alcoholism as a disease.
"She can't stop," says Siobhan's father. "If she drinks, she'll have ten if everyone else is having two, and then like she said, it just was escalating to drugs because there was no high, high enough."
Chai cautions that recovery and sobriety is a life-long process and recommends complete elimination of drinking as the first step.
Siobhan has begun to heal relationships damaged by her alcoholism and is working to stay away from triggers, such as listening to certain music, keeping a positive support system around her and working through her urges with professionals.
Already, she says life has gotten better.
"The thing I love about being sober now is when I feel happy, it's real, you know?" Siobhan says. "Even when I am upset, it's real. It's not because of drink or a drug."