Going on a Weekend Drinking Binge

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of more than 15,000 teens recently surveyed admitted to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as downing five or more drinks in a row (for males) and four or more drinks in a row (for females) at least once in the past two weeks.

Binge drinking is sometimes referred to as “weekend drinking” because this is often when binge drinking occurs – during parties or teen get-togethers.

Teens who binge drink seldom worry about the health or safety issues involved; they may simply be curious about drinking alcohol and get caught up in the excitement of the party atmosphere.

But binge drinking can be dangerous. Many teen lives are lost because of heavy drinking, both as a result of automobile crashes or other fatal injuries, and as a result of alcohol poisoning.

Those who drink heavily may also take risks they wouldn’t ordinarily take. They are about five times more likely, for example, to engage in unprotected sex, putting them at risk for a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancy. Teens who regularly binge drink are more likely to use illegal drugs or tobacco, and may develop symptoms of brain damage, making it harder to keep up in school.

What To Do
Begin talking about the dangers of binge drinking early on – before your child is tempted to experiment with alcohol. And because cirrhosis of the liver probably seems as remote a concern to a teenager as does retirement, appeal to him about the harmful effects that may result from drinking that pertain to his life in the here and now. For example, several studies have suggested that teen binge drinking can cause damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is involved with learning and memory, and to the prefrontal cortex, the decision-making part of the brain. Damage to these areas will not only affect learning now, but also has the potential to hamper success in college and beyond.

Make sure your child understands your rules and expectations about drinking, and decide together on the consequences for breaking those rules. If your child breaks the rules, be prepared to uphold the consequences. And don’t be afraid to question where he is going and whom he is with. If she’s going to a party, follow up with the host parents to make sure the party will be alcohol-free and supervised.

If you think your child may already have a binge-drinking problem, seek professional help as soon as possible.