Alcohol – Teenage Binge Drinking

Teen drinkingIt’s difficult for parents of teenagers when it comes to alcohol. On one hand the modern, open minded parent doesn’t want to be an overbearing moralist, but on the other hand science is discovering negative effects when teenagers drink alcohol, especially if they’re binge drinking. This about teenage drinking is from Science Daily:

Teenage binge drinking is a major health concern in the United States, with 21 percent of teenagers reporting they have done it during the past 30 days. Among drinkers under age 21, more than 90 percent of the alcohol is consumed during binge drinking episodes. Binge drinking is defined as raising the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent, the legal driving limit, within two hours (generally about five drinks for a male and four drinks for a female).

This is from the same article:

Repeated binge drinking during adolescence can affect brain functions in future generations, potentially putting offspring at risk for such conditions as depression, anxiety, and metabolic disorders, a Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study has found.

Most experts state that the best way to deal with teenagers and alcohol use is to talk openly with them. Having one big “talk” with a teenager will not likely produce any effective results, but opening an ongoing dialogue is very helpful. If the teenager knows they can trust the parents, then it makes it easier for them to ask questions and solicit advice. Teenagers need to know the facts, but in order for parents to talk about alcohol and other drug use in an intelligent, factual manner, the parents must learn about alcohol and other drugs. If the parent is uncertain or has conflicting emotions and ideas regarding alcohol, then this will come across. Parents must be comfortable with the subject and what they think about alcohol and drinking in general. 

It would be helpful for parents to learn about alcohol abuse and addiction, the differences between abuse and addiction and the signs and symptoms. Another thing is that many kids are choosing abstinence. Abstinence is a very valid, smart choice. Teenage drinking is not inevitable. While the brain’s developing, it’s risky to put anything in the brain that can effect it negatively. As science advances, results point more and more to teenage abstinence as a healthy, intelligent choice. Abstinence is not realistic in many cases because kids will experiment, but after a few bad experiences, along with knowledge of the facts about alcohol and other drugs, maybe abstinence will look smarter and more appealing.


Teen Binge Drinking

anxiety and alcoholismResearch has revealed more evidence that teen binge drinking has long term consequences. Past research on marijuana use among pre-teens and teens has shown that the developing brain of a pre-teen or teen is negatively affected by pot use. Teens and pre-teens who use marijuana on a regular basis are at risk of developing persistent problems with memory and learning. Now, research shows that teen binge drinking likely creates changes in the developing brains of young people.

It makes sense to even a lay person, especially when the brain is still developing, that mood-altering chemicals poured into the brain repeatedly over a long period of time can have negative effects. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

Adolescent binge drinking can disrupt gene regulation and brain development in ways that promote anxiety and excessive drinking behaviors that can persist into adulthood, according to a new study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health.  A report of the study, conducted in animals by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, appears online in the journal Neurobiology of Disease.

“These findings are an important contribution to our understanding of the alcohol-induced brain changes that make alcohol problems in adulthood more likely among young people who abuse alcohol,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D.

Previous studies have shown that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, and young people consume more than 90 percent of their alcohol by binge drinking.

In a more permissive, worldly, sophisticated society, it’s difficult for parents to lay down fast and hard rules about drinking alcohol and smoking pot. There’s a pervasive idea that kids will drink and smoke pot as a form of passage into adulthood, and parents hope that their kids don’t develop a serious problem. As we learn more about brain development during childhood and adolescence, this old idea of inevitable drinking and pot smoking calls for re-evaluation. At least parents should tell teens and pre-teens the dangers of using mood-altering substances during the development years without a nod and a wink.