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Daily Dose

Binge Drinking on the Rise

1:30 to read

Binge drinking among teens has always been an issue, but unfortunately alcohol use is becoming more prevalent at younger and younger ages.  While many parents (including me) discussed the use of alcohol with their teenagers during their high school years, a recent clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics published in the journal Pediatrics states that “by the eighth grade a quarter of those surveyed had consumed alcohol”.   

The report found that children start to “think positively about alcohol between 9 and 13 years of age”. With this finding it is incumbent upon parents and pediatricians to start the discussion about alcohol use at even earlier ages.  Personally, I think that one of the reasons we need to discuss alcohol use with younger children, may be due to the fact that alcohol use and availability has become more and more prevalent across our society. Many young children’s birthday parties in my area include alcohol for the adults.  Some play groups now have “mommy juice” in coolers at the park  as well as apple juice for the toddlers. Parents are drinking on the sidelines of the soccer and baseball game.  Grocery stores and pharmacies all carry beer and wine which makes it easy to pick up a bottle of wine while you wait for your child’s prescription.  Recently,  more and more college sporting events are allowing alcohol sales in their stadiums, field houses and coliseums. 

The statistics reveal that alcohol is the substance most frequently abused by children and adolescents in the U.S.  In 2014, “half of twelfth graders and one in nine eight graders reported having been drunk at least once in their life”. We also know that among our youth, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adults who drink. 

Because teens typically weigh less than adults, binge drinking is teens is defined differently than for adults. For girls ages 9-7, three or more drinks in a two hour period is considered binge drinking and for boys ages 9-13 the cutoff is three or more drinks, for boys 14-15 it’s four or more drinks, and for boys 16-17, its five or more drinks.   

It is also not difficult to understand the correlation between binge drinking and risk taking behaviors among teens.  Binge drinking has been associated with earlier sexual activity and teen pregnancy, fatal car accidents and even alcohol poisoning and death.  Not only does alcohol affect choices while imbibing, but it  “may interfere with important aspects of brain development that can lead to cognitive impairment, brain injury and substance use disorders later in life”.

Lastly, not surprisingly, teens look to their parents on their decision to drink or not. Modeling behavior could not be more important, as one teen once told me when discussing her use of alcohol, “why don’t you talk to my mom about coming home drunk every night, then I will talk to you”.  

Your Baby

AAP Reissues Warning About Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy


The medical community has long stressed the importance of not drinking alcohol while pregnant.  But repeated claims that it is safe for a mother-to-be to drink small amount of alcohol has prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to publish an updated report in its online journal Pediatrics.

There is no amount of alcohol that is safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy notes the new report.

Alcohol-related disorders in newborns occur at even greater frequency than previously thought, it found, because such disorders have been “significantly unrecognized.”

Such disorders, in fact, are the most commonly identifiable cause of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities in children, said Janet F. Williams, a University of Texas physician and lead author of the report.

“The research suggests that the smartest choice for women who are pregnant is to just abstain from alcohol completely,” she said. “This message has been out there for a long time, that alcohol use is not healthy, and a lot of people just want that to be wrong.”

The report stated “about half of all childbearing-age women in the United States report consuming alcohol within the past month. In truth, some don’t yet realize they are pregnant. But nearly 8 percent of women said they continued consuming alcohol during pregnancy.

Women that binge-drink when they are not pregnant may be more likely to consume alcohol during pregnancy, researchers said.

Williams noted that there’s more than 30 years of research that clearly connects alcohol use during pregnancy with birth defects.

The academy reports that another study found an increased risk of retardation of growth in infants even when a pregnant woman’s consumption was limited to one alcoholic drink per day — a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.

Drinking in the first trimester of pregnancy compared with no drinking resulted in 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with fetal alcohol spectrum.

First- and second-trimester drinking increased those odds by 61 times, with those drinking throughout the duration of pregnancy increasing the odds by a factor of 65.

Children affected by fetal alcohol spectrum, Dr. Williams said, are notably smaller with smaller or less apparent facial features and flatness in the middle region of the face. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder also is strongly associated with alcohol, while neurological and cognitive problems can include the inability to form concepts, make plans and speak fluently. Additional problems can occur with social interaction and relationships.

“No alcohol is the safe choice,” Dr. Williams said. “No alcohol means no [fetal alcohol spectrum disorders]. I don’t want people to feel badly if they were using alcohol and found out they were pregnant. That happens. But they must know at that moment, if they stop, they have a definitely lower risk of their child having problems than they would if they continue drinking.”

Sources: David Templeton,

Carl Nierenberg,





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