The dangers of kids binge drinking
Alcoholic shots and the potential risk to young people
From prom to end of school celebrations, it’s party time. It may also be the time to talk to your kids about binge drinking.
A study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse reports that about one in five underage people under 21 consumed alcoholic shots in the past 30 days. The study states the youth were more likely to binge drink, consume more alcohol and physically fight someone.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducts the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines binge drinking as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days.
While there were no significant differences by age, race or region, the amount of shots consumed among underage drinkers was slightly higher among females. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five high school girls binge drink.
“Binge drinking is usually a function, expression or defense of some earlier trauma that has not been exposed or dealt with,” said Lena Zettler, MA, LPA, director of the department of Psychology at Cook Children’s. “Chances are that the ‘one’ girl in the ‘one in five’ statistic was abused or is in real psychological pain.”
The CDC stated binge drinking results in about 23,000 deaths in girls and women each year and increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy and many other problems.
Zettler said teens often binge drink around events, for example, they drink a lot in a short amount of time before a homecoming game. Girls are more vulnerable to binge drinking than boys, both because they more often are victims of trauma and they lack the enzyme to more effectively metabolize alcohol.
“Teen girls may have more of an issue with binge drinking because they might choose to drink liquor, especially vodka and white rum—as opposed to beer and wine—because of fewer calories,” Zettler said. “So rather than think about how much they are drinking in a short amount of time and what that is doing to their brain, they only focus on consuming fewer calories.”
Know the Risk Factors
Zettler believes there is probably a genetic predisposition for some binge drinkers, similar to the genetic link to other forms of alcohol abuse.
“I tell kids that when it comes to drinking and drugs, we are not all equal,” Zettler said. “In other words, you never know—maybe until it’s too late—if you will be the one who develops a problem or can’t stop drinking.”
Zettler suggests parents educate their kids about how binge drinking can have long-term brain effects, easily lead to alcohol poisoning (especially in girls), and put them at greater risk for being sexually assaulted or other harmful events.