Binge Drinking in Teens

Find out the significant factors to address when assessing the problem of teens and alcohol consumption.
Teens and Alcohol

Table of Contents

What Is Binge Drinking?

Teens and alcohol have an unusual relationship. Many teenagers can only take alcohol when there is no adult present, or in social situations with their peers. So, when they do get their hands on a bottle, they tend to consume large volumes at a time, taking full advantage of the rare opportunity. Although teenagers do not have a consistent drinking habit as adults do, they have been found to challenge the records for most drinks consumed in a fell swoop.

Teenagers love to explore and challenge themselves, so drinking competitions and games are events that provide adventure and fun. Here, teens try to outdo one another, leaving scores of empty beer bottles in their wake in only a matter of minutes. This is how binge drinking comes into play.1

Teens and Alcohol

Binge drinking simply means heavy consumption of alcohol within a short period. It is a form of alcohol abuse that usually involves consuming enough alcohol to reach a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08%.2

To reach this level, men usually have to consume five or more standard drinks of alcohol, and women usually have to consume four. But, of course, not every alcoholic beverage qualifies as a standard drink, plus various alcoholic drinks have a custom alcohol concentration. So, naturally, the next question will be, “what constitutes a standard drink of alcohol?” Let’s see.

A Deeper Look into Teen Health: Substance Use and Abuse

What Constitutes a Drink?

A standard drink in the United States contains 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. A standard drink is a common denominator for every alcoholic beverage independent of the volume of liquid consumed. For instance, a shot of whisky can very well contain a higher amount of pure alcohol than a large glass of beer.2
It’s quite easy to confuse quantity and concentration regarding alcohol consumption. Many teenagers can’t gauge or predict how much of a particular beverage will amount to excess intake.

Why Do People Binge Drink?

There are several popular reasons why people binge drink, such as loneliness, stress, and losing a loved one.3 So, in an attempt to assuage the situation, the individual exposes themselves to the dangers of binge drinking.

How Does it Affect the Body?

Binge drinking overloads the body with more alcohol than it can handle within a short period. Ultimately, the body is overwhelmed and suffers several negative effects.
The dangers of binge drinking to the body include:4

Other bodily dangers of binge drinking include malnutrition, a higher chance of illness and disease, and a decreased state of mental coordinator.4

Alcohol and Teenagers

Teen alcohol abuse is on the rise. Research showed that in 2019, persons between the age of twelve and twenty were responsible for 4% of alcohol consumption in the United States.5

Is Underage Drinking Common?

Yes, it is. Another 2019 survey revealed that seven million young persons in the United States from twelve to twenty years old had consumed alcohol.6 In the United States, alcohol use disorder maintains the top spot among the different types of substance use disorder in the youthful population.

Why Do Teens Drink?

There are several reasons and causes of teenage drinking, including:

Risk-Taking

The young mind is adventurous and exuberant. This nature makes them want to break and cross boundaries—including the law. Therefore, Risk-taking through alcoholism can be perceived as the most promising shot at appearing cool and courageous for many teens.

Curiosity

Exposure to persons who engage in underage drinking can arouse curiosity, especially in teenagers and young adults. Teenagers and young adults are known to be quite adventurous. So, the chances of adolescents wanting to know how it feels to binge drink are high.

Expectancies

Many teens have heard about the ecstatic feeling that alcohol use can provide. A level of alcohol intake induces a dopamine release, a chemical substance that produces a feeling of pleasure.7 Is this feeling worth risking the consequences of underage drinking?

To Feel Older

The law separates teens and alcohol use. Teens below twenty-one do not have legal permission to drink alcohol, so it’s easy for them to feel left out. This feeling creates a desire to consume alcohol and step into the shoes of adulthood.

Hereditary Factors

Some genes have passed down the family that may predispose offspring to alcoholism. An American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry study shows that a child of someone with alcohol use disorder is four times as likely to abuse alcohol than others. 

Even as scientists have had a hard time pointing out what genes are responsible for the increased likelihood of alcohol use, enough research has shown a clear pattern of transfer from parents to children.8

Peer Pressure

The urge to blend in can be quite powerful. In many groups, only a few people can bear being the odd one out and the ridicule that comes with it. It is common for teens to seek the approval of the group they belong to or intend to join. Teens may have to impress the rest of the group by consuming lots of alcohol in minutes amidst watchful eyes and cheers of encouragement.
Reasons and Causes of Teenage Drinking

Risks and Side Effects of Binge Drinking in Teens

There are enough effects of binge drinking in teens to keep health experts worried and busy. These are:

Alcohol Poisoning

One of the effects of binge drinking in teens is the dreaded alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning results from excessive alcohol intake and could very well be fatal—the more reason why there must be a separation between teens and alcohol.

When teens engage in binge drinking, the body finds it more difficult to get rid of alcohol at a fast-enough rate, causing many adverse reactions. Breathing slows down dangerously, and body temperature gets very low and out of control. Other effects of alcohol poisoning include seizures, paleness of skin, confusion, and coma.9

Alcohol and Unsafe Sex

Unsafe sex is one of the fallouts of teens and alcohol abuse. Safe sex is a decision that requires mental alertness; however, due to the loss of mental clarity that binge drinking brings, teenagers, just like every other age group, are more likely to have unprotected sex.10

Impaired Judgment

It is common knowledge that excessive alcohol use predisposes individuals to an alteration in perception and moral judgment. This change in judgment usually lasts for a long time. Alcohol use takes a toll on the brain and tampers information processing.11

Physical Health

A decline in physical health is a major effect of binge drinking. Binge drinking lowers the body’s ability to withstand illness, causing liver damage, brain damage, heart failure, and cancer.

Mental Health

A decline in mental health is one of the teens and alcohol use effects. Teenagers may experience a pleasurable feeling after drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period, but this comes at the expense of proper brain function. Binge drinking goes hand-in-hand with several mental health challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and lack of mental coordination.

Alcoholism

After a few binge drinking sessions, teens could form an inseparable bond with alcohol. Alcohol use disorder is an unusual dependence on alcohol. At this stage, teenagers are no longer in charge of drinking habits and will persist even in the face of physical and emotional harm.

Delving into Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain and Body

Signs and Symptoms of Binge Drinking in Teenagers

Detecting binge drinking in teens is possible by paying attention to a couple of the following signs.

Unusual Tiredness

Teenagers have virtually all the stamina in the world at their disposal, except those who engage in binge drinking. Binge drinking teens find it difficult to last due to the fatigue caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Changes in Personality or Behavior

Binge drinking can change a happy and smart teen into a grumpy and disoriented one. In addition, personal hygiene and comportment may begin to suffer as alcohol dependency increases.

Withdrawal From Family

Binge drinking in teens creates an unhealthy family connection, potentially even harming the family members in the process. A decline in a family relationship is a common underage drinking side effect.

Money Problems

Alcohol is not free, so many teenagers have to spend most or all of their money to get large volumes of alcohol. Money problems are another prominent effect of teens and alcohol use.

Moodiness or Depression

Excessive alcohol intake almost always results in foul moods and bouts of depression. After experiencing the “high” from binge drinking, there is little or nothing else to derive pleasure.

Poor Sleeping Habits

Experts have linked binge drinking with insomnia and poor sleeping habits. Excessive alcohol consumption reduces the power of sleep-inducing chemicals in the body, such as serotonin. In addition, binge drinking may cause teens to suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes a person to occasionally stop breathing while asleep.

Changes in Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is usually no longer a major concern for teens who binge drink. They may appear more tired, experience changes in weight, and overall look unkempt.

Loss of Interest in Usual Activities

Teens who binge drink may no longer derive pleasure in their favorite activities. They may lose interest in school sports, learning a skill, working on academic projects, or even vacationing with their family.

How to Prevent Binge Drinking in Teens

Teens and alcohol use will most likely result in binge drinking. Teenage drinking affects society and not just the teens. Everyone must fight against underage drinking, and the most effective way to tackle the teen drinking challenge is to stop it from happening. Here are the most popular underage drinking prevention hacks we can employ.

Individual-Level Interventions

Individual-level interventions involve spotting teens who have shown convincing signs of binge drinking and reaching out to them. The intervention should be friendly and empathic, letting them know about the dangers of the lifestyle and how to get help.

School-Based Interventions

School boards have a role to play in separating teens and alcohol use. Organizing enlightenment campaigns about the dangers of teen drinking, ensuring that counselors can help students under peer pressure to take alcohol, and creating an alcohol-free environment are big steps in preventing teen alcohol abuse.

Family-Based Interventions

Parents and guardians have a responsibility to show their kids the right example. Apart from explaining how teenage binge drinking can negatively alter their lives, family members who drink should keep alcohol out of reach and demonstrate responsible drinking lifestyles. In addition, parents should speak with their children about their perceptions about drinking and those of their peers and close friends because of detecting any possible peer pressure.

Community-Based Interventions

In several communities, teenagers drinking alcohol is a common sight. Suppose the community can hold any adults who allow teen drinking on their property accountable and people who sell alcohol to teens. In that case, the menace of teens and alcohol use will drastically reduce.
Communities should find out why their communities have considerably more alcohol outlets than others and tackle high outlet density in their communities. Regulation of outdoor alcohol advertising and a media campaign against teenage alcohol use will also go a long way in addressing the menace.

Policy-Level Interventions

Alcohol policy in any location impacts alcohol use. At the national and state levels, stricter laws on alcohol use will help stem the tide of teen drinking. The government can support community campaigns against teen alcohol abuse, introduce a licensing system for alcohol retailers, revoke licenses of those who sell to minors, and regulate alcohol sales density in every location.
Governments can also enact policies that regulate the volume of marketing of alcohol, clamp down on any promotion of alcohol in an environment where teens are present, and provide price incentives for retailers of non-alcoholic drinks.

A Reference Guide for Parents to Prevent Underage Drinking

Treating Underage Drinking Problems

No matter how far gone someone is with binge drinking, treatment is possible. Many teens have recovered from alcohol use and dependency through the following methods.

Individual or Group Counseling Sessions

One-on-one or group counseling sessions are one way to defeat underage drinking. In these sessions, teens learn about harmful drinking, drink refusal skills, how to handle emotions and the urge to drink, and develop relationships. One of the main factors that set group sessions apart from individual counseling is that members work together and help set the agenda.

Medications to Reduce Alcohol Cravings

There are FDA-approved medications that reduce the urge for teens to drink alcohol, such as:

These medications will also mitigate the effects of teenage drinking on the body.

Family Therapy

Family therapy has gained increasing preference among other forms of therapy because it removes the feeling of isolation from the teen with the alcohol use disorder. In addition, when several family members are present in a therapy session, there is compelling and reassuring moral support. Family therapy also aims to strengthen relationships that may have been strained by the effects of underage drinking and equip parents with helpful teenage drinking parenting advice.

The Role Parents Can Play

Parents enjoy more contact and time with their kids than any other stakeholder in the campaign against underage drinking. This proximity places them in a crucial position in ensuring that their teens do not binge drink. Here are the roles parents can play:

How Can a Teen Get Help for an Alcohol Problem?

For teens who want to stop alcohol use, an experienced alcohol addiction treatment center can help significantly. Blueprints for Recovery is one of such alcohol addiction treatment centers. At Blueprints for Recovery, our highly qualified staff provides a listening ear, understands holistic treatment procedures, and has each patient’s best interest at heart. We offer a variety of treatment programs that focus on the physical and mental aspects of recovery, putting the person first, not the disorder. Contact us now so your child/ward can become free again.

Resources

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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