Teenage Binge Drinking: Risks Involved And Ways To stop The Habit

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Children aged between 12 and 20 consume 11% of the total alcohol in the US (1).Underage drinking is illegal, but it is one of the biggest problems plaguing parents and authorities around the world. One weekend of fun to try and experiment with alcohol becomes a habit, and before you know, the teenager ends up drinking more than he or she can handle.

MomJunction discusses the evils of teenage binge drinking and how you can groom your children to prevent underage drinking.

When Is It ‘Binge’ Drinking?

Binge drinking is drinking more than the ideal amount of alcohol on a given occasion. For men, it is more than five drinks, and for women, it is more than four drinks on any one occasion, during two preceding weeks. Such a pattern of drinking increases the blood alcohol level to more than the permissible 0.08 grams (30mg/100ml of blood in India (2) on the blood alcohol calculator (BAC).

The teen may begin with a drink or two for the thrill of it. The problem arises when they start drinking more than they can handle.

Binge drinkers are not necessarily addicted to alcohol, but they tend to ‘get drunk’ whenever they drink. A teen is considered to be a binge drinker if he or she:

      • Drinks large quantities of alcohol just to get drunk.
      • Indulges in occasional, but irregular, bouts of heavy alcohol consumption.
      • Is usually a responsible drinker, but overindulges once in a while.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a binge drinker indulges in drinks at least four times a month. Heavy binge drinkers drink at least two to three times in two weeks.

[ Read: Teen Alcohol Abuse ]

Teenage Binge Drinking Statistics And Facts

Teens tend to drink more as they age. Boys tend to binge drink more than girls. Here are some more alarming facts about binge drinking in teens.

      • More than 90% of underage drinking is in the form of binge drinking (1).
      • Here is a more shocking detail – boys and girls tend to start drinking as early as 12 or 13 years (3).
      • A survey of high school students revealed that 33% of them had consumed alcohol in some form, while 18% indulged in binge drinking. What is alarming is that 8% of teenage binge drinkers drove home after drinking (1).
      • Nearly one-third of all road accident or driving deaths involve children aged between 16 and 20 (4). Around 4,300 deaths are caused due to excessive drinking and driving every year.
      • Alcohol is also responsible for homicides, suicides, and deaths by drowning, burning, falling, and poisoning among underage drinkers (5).

Underage drinking is associated with poor academic performance, illicit drug use, physical assault, and loud and unruly behavior.

Why Do Teens Binge Drink?

Binge drinking is more of a behavioral issue than a medical condition. It can be described as a pattern of alcohol consumption that is risky. More often than not, people indulge in it in spite of knowing the possible risks.

Here are some reasons why teens binge drink.

      1. Most teenagers drink to get high. And, alcohol is more easily available than narcotics. And once they experience that high, the body craves for more. This often results in binge drinking.
      1. Young adults, especially boys, want to test how much alcohol they can handle. This drives them to have one drink after the other until they are wasted.
      1. When alcohol reaches the brain, the body releases happy chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. Teenagers tend to drink more and more to experience this happy feeling.
      1. Teenagers who want to forget any negative incidents or problems at school or home think that getting drunk is the best solution to it. When one or two drinks don’t help, they continue drinking until they are no longer in control of themselves.
      1. Many kids develop this rebellious streak during their adolescence when their sole aim is to do things that annoy or spite their parents.

Raves, weekend parties, proms, birthday parties, or even simple overnight stays at a friend’s place often turn into perfect opportunities for teenage drinking. Underage binge drinking can be prevented when parents keep tabs on their kids’ whereabouts and activities at all times. The only way to fight underage alcohol and drug abuse is to create a strong community of parents.

[ Read: Why Do Teens Drink And Drive ]

Risks Of Binge Drinking Habits In Teens

Binge drinking during the teen years disrupt normal growth in children and result in long-term health problems. Read on to learn more about the dangers of teenage binge drinking .

1. Teenage binge drinking and brain damage

The biggest risk of teenage binge drinking is brain damage. Teenagers aren’t fully developed as adults are. Consuming alcohol and narcotics during their growing years, when the brain goes through major changes, can largely affect their physical, mental, and emotional development (6). Studies suggest that these changes in adolescence can lead to abnormal behavior that goes into adulthood.

When individuals, especially adolescents, drink huge amounts of alcohol, the liver cannot metabolize it. The alcohol in the body and brain remains for a longer period than if they drank small amounts of alcohol. This prolonged period taken to metabolize the alcohol by the liver damages the brain cells, which is worse in a growing and developing brain of an adolescent.

2. Drinking and accidents

As many as 5,000 people under the age of 21 die every year due to alcohol related incidents. Of that, 1,900 die in alcohol-related road accidents, while the rest succumb to homicides, suicides, and other injuries (7). Studies have also revealed that teenagers are 17 times more likely to get killed in a car accident when they have more than the permissible amount of alcohol (0.08g) in their blood (8).

3. Alcohol overdose or poisoning

can make teenagers pass out, behave abnormally (even after the effects of alcohol have worn out), forget details of events, and even miss school. Young adults are also physically vulnerable and are at the risk of alcohol overdose or poisoning. The following signs indicate alcohol overdose in an individual:

      • Slow respiration
      • Semi-conscious or unconscious state
      • Skin turns cold and pale, sometimes blue
      • Strong alcohol odor in the breath
      • Severe dehydration

If you suspect that a child has had too much alcohol and is showing the above symptoms, get help immediately. Turn the child to his or her left and hold them in an elevated position, with the help of pillows, to prevent them from choking on their vomit. Leaving an overdosed person alone to “sleep it off” is a bad idea.

[ Read: Side Effects Of Energy Drinks On Teenagers ]

4. Long-term health problems

Drinking heavily at the tender age of 12 to 18 can have a lasting effect on the person’s health, according to research. These teenagers continue abusing alcohol even as an adult, which can make them vulnerable to liver disorders like cirrhosis, peripheral neuropathy and the effects of vitamin deficiency due to poor eating habits. Research also says that binge drinking can increase the risk of anxiety disorders, metabolic disorders, and depression (9).

5. Risk of sexual abuse and STDs

Sexual abuse is a risk that most binge drinking teenage girls face. They are more likely to have unprotected sex and thus acquire sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and become pregnant. Also, underage girls who binge drink, are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and date rape (10).

In some instances, the alcoholic beverages are laced with the date rape drug, Rohypnol, which knocks females out completely to the point that they have no recollection of what happened to them or how they arrived at a strange destination.

6. Alcohol dependence

While binge drinkers are not alcoholics, regular binge drinking during adolescence can lay the foundation to alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction in adulthood. Ignoring binge drinking even on one occasion can be a bad idea.

The overall effect of binge drinking varies among teens, depending on when they consume alcohol (after eating or on an empty stomach), how much they consume, and how much time they take to consume it. Researchers suggest the child’s levels of physical and emotional maturity also play a role in the kind of effect binge drinking has on them.

How To Stop Teenage Binge Drinking?

Preventing teenage binge drinking is better than trying to stop it after it has begun. Here are a few precautionary measures:

      1. Talk to your teenagers about binge drinking early on. Tell them why it is not a good idea to consume alcohol at their age and explain the risks that they are exposed to when they binge drink. More often than not, teenagers understand the dangers involved in binge drinking and avoid it.
      1. Teens may indulge in binge drinking when they have problems. If you suspect that your child is drinking, encourage them to talk about their problem. And listen to them without judging.Talking can be cathartic and may reduce the urge to get high to forget problems.
      1. Make it clear to your teenager that it is NOT OKAY to consume alcohol before they turn 21. Set clear expectations and consequences if they break that rule and enforce the punishment or consequence.
      1. If your family has a history of alcohol abuse or dependence, let the teenager know about it and its dangers. Explain how they have a higher chance of becoming addicted to alcohol.
      1. Talk to them about their friends and the kind of activities they spend time on. This will give you an idea of how they behave when they are not with you and whether or not they are at risk of binge drinking.
      1. Explain how drinking does not make them ‘cool’. Teach them to say no to ‘alcohol’ when their peers have it.
      2. Teach them that they should not rely on alcohol to have fun.
      3. If they are shy or inhibited in company they must be encouraged to participate without fear that they are going to be judged or criticized.
      4. If you suspect that they might be having a mental problem like anxiety, depression or social phobia, take them to a counselor to build on their self esteem and to address the underlying mental problem

In addition to this, don’t make alcohol easily available. Also, do not give them so much pocket money that can be spent on drinking and drugs. Another way to discourage binge drinking in teens is to engage them in productive activities such as sports, more family time, and maybe a part-time job.

[ Read: Marijuana Effects On Teens ]

Binge drinking should be nipped in the bud, especially when there is a teenager involved. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent teenage binge drinking? Tell us about them here.

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