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Binge Drinking and Adolescents

Author: Disabled World

Published: 2013-07-07 : (Rev. 2013-11-15)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Information regarding excessive alcohol consumption among American adolescents including binge drinking and associated health problems.

Main Digest

In the United States, the most commonly abused drug happens to be alcohol. There is an underage drinking epidemic going on in America, beginning with elementary and middle-school aged children who are between the ages of 9 and 13 years and continuing through college aged minors. Underage drinking accounts for a significant amount of total alcohol consumption in America, with nearly 20% of the alcohol consumed being by people who are under the age of 21.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.

Increased risk-taking behaviors, impulsivity, anxiety, and low levels of harm avoidance are all things that may happen in adolescents. When they are accompanied with changes in stress-related hormone release they might lead to initiation of patterns of drug and alcohol consumption such as binge drinking. Binge drinking involves a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings a person's blood alcohol level to 0.08 or higher. For the average adult, this means consuming 4-5 alcoholic drinks in a period of 2 hours. A, 'drink,' includes a half ounce of alcohol, such as a 12-ounce beer, a 1.5 ounce shot of hard liquor, or a 5 ounce glass of wine. The amount is enough alcohol to impair a person's judgment, cause them to slur their words, remove their inhibitions, and possibly place them at risk of serious social or health consequences, potential brain damage, or even death.

Teenagers have been drinking alcohol for hundreds of years. Apprentices in pre-revolutionary America were handed buckets of ale by their masters as a reward at the end of long and hard workdays. In the 1890's at the age of 15, writer Jack London drank grown sailors under the table on a consistent basis. For nearly as long as teenagers have been drinking alcohol, concerned adults have attempted to limit their consumption of it.

In the 1830's, 'temperance,' societies subscribed school children to lifelong abstinence pledges. In modern society, public health experts constantly warn that teenagers who drink experience vastly increased risks of being involved in fights, car accidents, and sexual activities that are unsafe or unwanted. The majority of young people do not binge drink on a regular basis.

Binge drinking among high school students actually declined from 28.3% in the year 2003 to 25.5% in 2005. Sadly, the age of those who binge drink is getting younger, particularly among boys. The rates of binge drinking for 9th grade boys increased from 18.8% in 2003 to 20.7% by 2005. Among 9th graders, 33.9% reported drinking alcohol before the age of 13. Research has demonstrated that people who start drinking at an early age experience incredible risks of becoming alcoholics.

The Costs of Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is more of an issue than many people realize; it involves more than just the numbers of binge drinkers. The amount and number of times people binge drink are also important. For example; greater than 90% of the alcohol young people drink is while binge drinking. Other costs include the following:

Drinking too much, to include binge drinking, costs more than $750 per person, or more than $1.90 a drink in America. The costs include lost productivity, health care expenses, and crime. Drinking too much contributes to more than 54 different diseases and injuries - including violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and car crashes. The chance of becoming sick and dying from alcohol issues increases greatly for people who binge drink more often and drink more when they do binge drink. In the year 2006, binge drinking cost federal, state, and local governments around 62 cents per drink. Federal and state income taxes on alcohol from the same year only totaled around 12 cents per drink.

Bing Drinking Risk Factors

A large number of adolescents who report binge drinking also use other psychotropic substances. High school students in the 9th through 12th grades who were involved in a binge drinking group had a higher 30-day prevalence than their peers who did not binge drink of cannabis use and the use of other types of illegal drugs. They also used tobacco more often. Other risk factors for bing drinking among adolescents include:

The Risks and Consequences of Binge Drinking in Adolescents

Among adolescents, diseases commonly associated with alcohol such as digestive disorders or cardiovascular ones are less significant than immediate somatic complications of intoxication such as aspiration of vomit or hypothermia. It is very important to be aware that risks related to alcohol such as violent behavior, suicidal behavior, and vehicle accidents are also involved. After vehicle accidents or other accidents and the consequences of violence, suicide is in third place as a cause of death among adolescents.

When associated with comorbid psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, as well as phobias or stressful life events, binge drinking increases the risk of attempted suicide and suicide. Binge drinking girls in the 8th grade experience double the risk of attempted suicide when compared to girls of the same age who did not drink. In an analysis of the National Risk Behavior Survey in America performed in relation to high school students in the 9th-12th grades, the risk of attempted suicide associated with binge drinking was 4.3 fold the risk without binge drinking.

Binge drinking is also associated with earlier sexual activity and the frequent changing of sexual partners. It is associated with a higher rate of unwanted teenage pregnancy, infertility, sexually-transmitted diseases, as well as drinking during pregnancy with the risk of alcohol-related damage to the fetus. The risk to adolescent girls of becoming a victim of undesired sexual activity increases approximately 3 times if they are binge drinking. Just under half of a population of adolescent girls who reported sexual assault had consumed alcohol or other substances.

Repeated excessive drinking very notably increases the risk of developing an alcohol-related disorder. Adolescents who begin drinking regularly before the age of 15 experience 4 times the risk of developing alcohol dependence when compared with those who do not start drinking on a regular basis until they are 20. If it were possible to shift the age at which young people start drinking by 5 years, the risk of significant alcohol-related issues would drop in half.

References and Citations:

Binge Drinking
www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/BingeDrinking/

Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes 80,000 deaths in the US each year and, in 2006 cost the economy $223.5 billion.

Teen Binge Drinking: Common and Risky
www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20070102/teen-binge-drinking-common-and-risky

Almost two-thirds of high school students who drink alcohol admit binge drinking and may be at risk of other serious health problems.

Binge Drinking in Childhood and Adolescence
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2689602/

Episodic excessive alcohol consumption is associated not only with somatic complications, but also with traffic accidents and other types of accident, violent behavior, and suicide.

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