Parents are well aware that their teens will encounter alcohol in their high school years, if not sooner. While adults are well aware of the dangers of alcohol in general, they may still find it difficult to talk to a teenager about binge drinking.
Teens often begin experimenting with substances in high school. There are many stories of teens and college-age young adults ending up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning. Fraternity hazing rituals, campus parties, and drinking games are common during this time in a teen’s life.
There’s plenty of research that demonstrates an association between early age alcohol consumption and an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life. Additionally, binge drinking can result in accidental injury and disrupt academic performance. If you want to learn how to talk to your teen about binge drinking, let’s jump right in.
What is binge drinking?
The CDC defines binge drinking as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a two-hour period for a male and four or more drinks for a female. For instance, drinking games, usually based on a competition or a dare, often lead to binge drinking behavior among teens.
Based on CDC guidelines, the liver is only capable of metabolizing a limited amount of alcohol per hour. When someone consumes more than this amount, it results in excess alcohol accumulating in the blood. When the liver, bloodstream, and body tissues can’t eliminate the excess alcohol, it results in toxicity, known as alcohol poisoning.
Signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Low body temperature
- Irregular breathing
- Pale, clammy skin
- Mental confusion
Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency that requires immediate intervention.
Consequences of binge drinking
Talking to your teenager about the dangers of binge drinking gives them the tools and knowledge that they need if they find themselves in a situation where people are engaging in risky alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking poses many risks, including some very real dangers for those who participate in it.
While there are many topics that are difficult to bring up with teens, binge drinking is an essential one that should not be avoided. Parents and guardians may use various resources to help teens understand the dangers of excessive alcohol use. These might include news reports about young people who have succumbed to alcohol poisoning, public service announcements from the CDC, or articles that explain how the liver metabolizes alcohol and what happens when it becomes overwhelmed.
Some of the consequences of binge drinking include:
- Accidental Injury: When extreme inebriation occurs, the individual experiences a profound loss of control over motor movements, as well as slowed reflexes, and cognitive impairment. This can result in accidental injuries.
- Aggressive or Violent Behavior: Excess alcohol consumption can lead to a loss of control over emotions, and may result in violent outbursts.
- High-Risk Behaviors: Binge drinking impacts the brain’s cognitive functions, including the ability to exercise good judgment, causing people to engage in risky sexual behaviors, driving under the influence, or potentially dangerous impulsive acts.
- Decline in Academic Performance: Teens who engage in binge drinking may be more apt to miss school or fall behind on assignments.
- Alcohol Poisoning: Binge drinking depresses the individual’s involuntary actions, such as breathing and the gag reflex that prevents choking. This can result in cardiovascular and respiratory systems failure, or cause the individual to choke on their vomit — both with fatal consequences.
The early teen years are a period of massive change and growth. Parents and guardians have an opportunity to provide teens with important information about the dangers of alcohol that could help them make wise choices for years to come.
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