While many kids have been known to give in to peer pressure and try the occasional beer, binge drinking is rapidly growing into a larger issue in schools and families across the country. Binge drinking has become the single most common recurring pattern in alcohol abuse in the United States. Binge drinking, by definition, is when drinking progresses to the point where a person’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent.
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What Is Binge Drinking?
Who used the term binge drinking in the past to describe a period of drinking that took place over several days, i.e., a “bender.” Now, its more common use is to refer to a period where a large quantity of alcohol is consumed during a short period of time.
According to national surveys:
Binge drinking has become most commonplace among young adults aged 18-34
Men are more than twice as likely as women to binge drink
A whopping 90 percent of underage alcohol consumption in the United States is completed through binge drinking.
According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the threshold for a binge drinking episode is 5 or more drinks for a male drinker in less than 2 hours and 4 or more drinks for a female imbiber.
However, these numbers are not the only factor to be considered, as same-day drinking benders and the total amount of alcohol consumed in the sitting have yet to be factored into this study.
The onset of adolescence brings about the onset of more risk-tasking types of behaviors due to physiological changes. Binge drinking during adolescence has been strongly linked to alcoholism as an adult. 40 percent of adult alcoholics report that they partook in binge drinking during their teenage years. The peak of alcoholism takes place between the ages of 18 and 23.
New studies have found that neurocognitive defects can occur in those who drink excessively, in addition to working memory damage. The consumption of alcohol is the third leading cause of all avoidable deaths, with binge drinking making up a large number of these cases. This style of drinking is also a leading cause of:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Serious injuries
The excessive use of alcohol impedes several important functions of the brain. In addition to the effects above on memory, judgment and behavioral skills also suffer a decline. Motor skills, eye movement, and short-term memory occur.
In the case of binge drinkers, several detrimental effects on cognitive function also occur. Some of these include verbal memory lapses, impaired auditory memory, and struggling to handle difficult tasks involving either.
Causes Of Binge Drinking
Even though roughly 5,000 young people perish each year due to binge drinking and the health risks it poses, this has done nothing to curb the rise of the trend among adolescents. A 2005 MTF study showed that 75 percent of high school seniors, more than 66 percent of high school sophomores, and roughly 44 percent of eighth graders have all drank alcohol before. When younger people drink, more often than not, they drink to excess.
During these episodes, 2 to 5 drinks are consumed at one time. In the same MTF study, about 1 in 10 eighth and 1 in 4 10th and 12th graders reported that they had partaken in a binge drinking experience within the past two weeks. So why do young people drink?
Scientists believe that the human brain continues to develop into its twenties, during which risk tasking stops seeming like a sound choice and functions become further refined. Teen drinkers fail to realize the consequences of their actions and tend to seek risks than their older counterparts do not.
The expectations that come with drinking large quantities of alcohol also play a role in teen binge drinking. Around 13, children begin to view drinking as a positive experience and a fun time.
Alcohol tolerance at these ages is also unusually high, shattering the myth that youthful drinkers cannot drink as much as their older counterparts. Adolescents tend to experience the positive aspects of drinking, such as lack of inhibition in social settings, while bypassing the negatives, such as hangovers and clumsiness.
Personality traits can play into these choices, as well. An anti-social or overly aggressive child can be more susceptible to binge drinking. Kids who struggle in social situations or have high anxiety can begin to view drinking as a way to relax.
Being the child of an alcoholic or having a lengthy family history of alcohol abuse will place a teen at greater risk.
Effects Of Binge Drinking On Teens
One of the most dangerous effects that haven’t been discussed is the proliferation of unsafe sexual practices between inebriated teens. Binge drinking leads to such risky behaviors and outcomes as:
- Teen pregnancy
- Date rape
- Unprotected sex
Who can also stunt brain development during the teen years with the use of alcohol? By binge drinking at a young age, motivation, addiction, and the ability to control impulses can all be affected. Not only will it influence those factors, but the balance can also suffer.
Alcohol can often act as a gateway to the use of other drugs. Combined with other drugs, such as heroin and marijuana, it amplifies the danger. The central nervous system can become compromised and slow the heart rate to far lower levels than normal.
Ways To Prevent Binge Drinking In Teens
The best way to stop binge drinking in young people is not to allow it to begin in the first place. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Creating an environment that is intolerant to drinking is a good place to begin.
While no one would ever advocate that a parent never drinks for fear that their child will mimic their behavior, it’s in their best interest not to drink in front of their child.
A teen is far more likely to follow your example than your words. If a parent makes drinking alcohol appear fun and glamorous, they are more likely to heed what they see than hear.
Allowing your child to exist within a world wherein good choices are not emphasized will undo all of the efforts put in by the anti-drinking programs aimed toward teens. It is a given that a child’s parents, teachers, school administrators, and the like will deliver the right message.
But that message will be under constant attack from the media and peers. The media portrays the consumption of alcohol as glamorous, and peer pressure will always run rampant.
Communities do not often emphasize curbing teen drinking, chalking it up to a rite of passage, or sighing relief that their teen is not using harder drugs.
Youths are often quoted as saying it is easy for them to gain access to alcohol. Older siblings or acquaintances will purchase it for them, or they help themselves to their parents’ supply.
By sending these messages, it’s easy to see why teens can believe their actions don’t have serious consequences. Sending a consistent message goes a long way toward curbing teen binge drinking.
Research shows that to enact successful teen binge drinking prevention, one, if Who should use not all, of these strategies:
Changing of Social Norms
When youths see that alcohol use is tacitly endorsed by the parents and lawmakers in the community, it gives the impression that drinking is no big deal. This is where the responsibility falls on a community to band together and show a consistent zero-tolerance policy toward teen drinking. By not allowing access to alcohol and strictly enforcing drinking laws, the message is delivered: alcohol consumption for young people is not accepted.
Consistent Law Enforcement
Studies have found that while underage laws exist across the board, they are not often enforced. Lack of enforcement creates the sense among young drinkers that their actions are acceptable. Law enforcement is doing its part to help curb a disturbing trend by not continuing to take a lazy approach to underage drinking.
Make Sure Alcohol Is Unavailable
In all studies, one principle occurs: if kids cannot procure alcohol, they will drink less. Communities can help reduce alcohol availability to youths by more harshly punishing adults who are caught providing it to minors. In extreme cases, they can also reduce the number of establishments where alcohol is sold.
Amend Local Policies
Politicians can play a more prominent role in limiting alcohol use among minors. They can raise the taxes on alcohol, boost the minimum drinking age, strictly enforce zero-tolerance ordinances, and raise awareness of social host liability laws.
How To Stop Binge Drinking In Teens
So, you’ve found out that your teenage son or daughter is participating in binge drinking. This may seem like the end of the world; you may feel like there is nothing you can do to fix this issue. Luckily, you have options available to you. By recognizing that your teen has a problem, you’re informed enough to find a solution.
If your teen comes home under the influence of alcohol and you wish to stop this behavior, here is an outline for dealing with this serious issue.
Be Aware Of The Signs
If you smell alcohol on their breath or clothing, and all telltale signs of intoxication are present (slurring, poor balance, glassy eyes), it is time to intervene.
Research What Contributed To The Incident
Are their friends drinking routinely? Has your child started running with a different crowd? Do they have a regular drinking home or area? All of these questions
Let Your Teen Know They Have Your Support
If you come down like a ton of bricks, you risk pushing your child further down the rabbit hole of binge drinking. Chances are your teen already knows their behavior is wrong on some level and is acting out in some way. What they need in this situation is a friend.
Do Not Confront Them While Intoxicated
During intoxication, nothing you say will register in their memory. Your primary concern at this point is to keep them safe. It would help if you had the time to calm down; they need the time to sober up. Your message has a much better chance of sinking in when they are no longer intoxicated.
After staging your intervention, you’ll want to know that your child is sticking to the rules and is staying safe. Here are some tips for keeping tabs on your teen:
Spend Time With Them
Don’t just assume the problem is all better. Take the time to be around your teen and make yourself a regular presence in their life, even when friends are around.
Find out where they’re going, who they are going with, and how long they plan to be there. This goes double for when they arrive home. Look them over, ask about what they did and find out if they are staying sober.
Don’t be afraid to call your teen, check in, and ensure they adhere to the conditions you’ve set.
Develop A Rapport With Fellow Parents
The old cliché “it takes a village to raise a child” comes to mind here. Be sure to be in contact with other parents; that way, you can compare notes with each other and help to keep a watchful eye on each other’s children.
No surefire formula or guideline guarantees that your teen never binge drinks. Often, parents can do everything the right way and still have to deal with this growing issue.
All any parent can do in this situation is put their best foot forward, give their child the tools to discern right from wrong, and hope for the best. Trust that you’ve taught your teen properly. If they do slip up, provide a helping hand. If you cannot control their behavior, professionals are prepared to help you. Contact your family doctor, and they will aid you in deciding where to start.