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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 Teen

Parenting Style And Teen Drinking

2.00 to read

Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. A new study suggests that your child could become a binge drinker depending on your parenting style. For teenagers, friends play a big role in the decision to take that first drink. And by the 12th grade, more than 65 percent of teens have at least experimented with alcohol. But what parents do during the high school years can also influence whether teens go on to binge drink or abuse alcohol. Researchers at Brigham Young University have found that teenagers who grow up with parents who are either too strict or too indulgent tend to binge drink more than their peers. "While parents didn't have much of an effect on whether their teens tried alcohol, they can have a significant impact on the more dangerous type of drinking," says Stephen Bahr, a professor of sociology at BYU, and the author of the study that was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. As part of the survey of 5,000 teenagers, Bahr and his colleagues asked 7th- to 12th-grade students a series of questions about their alcohol use. "We asked how many had taken five or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks," says Bahr. That's the typical definition of binge drinking. They also asked the kids about their parents: What kinds of rules did they have? Did their parents know where they were on weekends? Did their parents check up on their whereabouts and set curfews? How much oversight and monitoring was typical? The teens who were being raised by so-called indulgent parents who tend to give their children lots of praise and warmth — but offer little in the way of consequences or monitoring of bad behavior — were among the biggest abusers of alcohol. "They were about three times more likely to participate in heavy drinking," says Bahr. The same was true for kids whose parents were so strict that no decision was left to the teenager's own judgment. "Kids in that environment tend not to internalize the values and understand why they shouldn't drink," says Bahr. They were more than twice as likely to binge drink. Striking The Right Balance The parenting style that led to the lowest levels of problem drinking borrowed something from each of the extremes. From the strict parents: accountability and consequences for bad behavior. From the indulgent parents: warmth and support Bahr says these parents tend to be more balanced. "They recognize their kids when they do good things and praise them, but they offer direction and correction when they get off a little bit," he says. Lots of factors contribute to teenagers' experimentation with alcohol and drugs. Genes play a significant role, as do peer relationships. And the teenage years can be adversarial. "Parents get really frustrated with teenagers," says Aimee Stern, who has written “Delaying That First Drink: A Parents’ Guide.”  “I have two of them — and you can't tell them anything they don't already know." That's why it's important to start talking to kids about alcohol when they're young — as early as fourth grade, recommends Stern. Her free book, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is intended as a teaching tool for parents and contains plenty of evidence-based information on drinking and addiction. It explains the science of alcohol, both in terms of what it does to the body and the developing brain. The guide can be used as a companion to a series of Science Inside Alcohol lessons developed by AAAS or as a stand-alone tool that parents can use in talking with their children. More information about Aimee Stern’s free book “Delaying That First Drink: A Parent’s Guide”  is at http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2010/0927alcohol_book.shtml.

Daily Dose

Teaching Your Grad to Make Good Choices

1.00 to read

With proms and graduations underway, the energy of the celebratory season is upon us.  At the same time come concerns for celebrations that include alcohol and under-age drinking. It is such an exciting time of year for adolescents and young adults (what is the right term for those under 21, they are still our children), but parties are frequent and safety is paramount.

The National Traffic Safety Administration warns that the number of adolescents killed in drunken driving accidents is greater during prom and graduation season that any other time of year. Statistics show that more than one-third of youth traffic fatalities under the age of 21 occur during the months of April, May and June. This is the best time to sit down with your child and discuss the risks of under age drinking, including drinking and driving, the risk of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning, and even sexual experimentation which often follows alcohol consumption. All of these issues are a reality and although our children may not want to discuss it, these are issues that they are confronted with.

Making good choices and being responsible continues on prom night and graduation. It is still important for parents to know who their child is with, where they are going, who is hosting the party, and who will be driving. A limousine takes driving out of the mix, but at the same time is often associated with alcohol and partying while riding to the prom or graduation party. Talk to other parents about the ground rules and expectations, as most parents have the same concerns.

Make sure that everyone is on the same page about checking in, curfew and that there will always be adult supervision, especially for after parties. Allowing teens to drink because you the parents take their keys away at the after party, sends the wrong message, and is also illegal. The bottom line is that safety is of the utmost importance. Give your son or daughter the option of calling you at any time for a ride home, no questions asked, if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. Having fun and being safe, that makes for the best prom or graduation possible.

That's your daily dose, we'll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Binge Drinking Numbers Rising!

Binge drinking and alcohol use among teens continues to rise. A college freshman as already died from alcohol poisoning What parents and teens need to know. Colleges are gearing up for finals, high school prom and graduation season is underway and the incidences of binge drinking continues to climb.  Why put these topics in the same sentence?

Underage and excessive drinking by high school and college students has been recognized as a problem for a long time, but recent studies only confirm that binge drinking continues to rise.  One report from a 2002 task force on drinking stated “abusive drinking by college students is widespread, dangerous and disruptive.”  Drinking excessively is associated with date rape, unintentional sex (is that an oxymoron), violence and poor academic performance. What is binge drinking? By definition it is drinking “five or more drinks in a row for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women.”  But this definition does not take into account length of time in which the alcohol is consumed or a person’s body weight. A better definition now defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above.“ This typically occurs within a two hour window of excessive drinking. Underage drinkers typically tend to drink on fewer occasions than their older peers but have more alcohol related problems than students of legal drinking age.  Sadly, more than 1,700 college students age 18-24 die each year from unintentional alcohol related injuries and more than 5,000 underage youth die from alcohol misuse. Another alarming statistic is that an underage youth dies in an alcohol related incident every two hours! So with these sobering statistics at hand , it is incumbent that parents begin educating their children, even at early ages, about alcohol use and misuse. Our children need to know that alcohol is a legal psychoactive drug that changes brain chemistry and may have long term effects on the still maturing teenage brain. Alcohol effects both the pre-frontal cortex (the brain’s chief decision maker) and the limbic system.  MRI studies on youth from 14-21 years of age who are frequent (that is scary) alcohol drinkers show definitive changes in both of these areas. Due to the fact that a teen’s brain is still developing, it is surmised that there might be permanent physiologic and psychological damage to an adolescent brain from early alcohol abuse.  There are ongoing studies looking at whether this damage is reversible. Teens also need to know that while alcohol is a “drug” it too may cause over-dosage and death similar to other drugs. Many teens do not realize that you can die from binge drinking. No, not in a car accident or from falling out of a window, but due to the central nervous system depression from high blood alcohol levels, that then “turn off “ vital areas in the brain resulting in coma and death. Talk to your teens about the signs of “alcohol over-dosage”, which may include vomiting, cold and clammy skin,  shallow breathing and unresponsiveness.  Letting a friend “sleep it off” after a night of heavy drinking is never the right idea. A good resource for parents to help educate their teens and college students about binge drinking is www.gordie.org. They have recently released an app The Gordie Check that reviews the signs of alcohol poisoning, stores emergency contacts and can help locate nearby medical facilities or call 911.  Pass this on to your college students (and high school students for that matter). Lastly, as binge drinking continues to rise among high school and college students, and more youth are reporting drinking in their early teens,  it is incumbent that parents discuss their views on underage drinking and also model the behavior they want to see in their children. In other words,  teach your children about responsible drinking when they become of age. When talking to my teenage patients about alcohol they often comment to  me “ Dr. Sue why don’t you talk to my parents about coming home drunk” and then they can talk to me!  Truer words could not be spoken. That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Teen Choice: Alcohol Laced Energy Drink

New energy drink Four Loko contains alcohol and is inadvertently being sold to teens many of who are overdosing and being sent to the emergency room. I just received information about a new “energy drink” that’s creating quite a stir for many parents and pediatricians.  “Four Loko” is actually an alcoholic beverage and is causing alcohol overdoses in teens who are consuming it in different areas of the country.

This beverage is packaged and appears to look like any other energy drink that many kids buy, but the difference is that it contains alcohol.  Four Loko is sold in a can and looks similar to your child’s favorite iced tea can or other fruit juice.  This appearance is one of the reasons it is inadvertently being sold to minors who are extremely savvy and are looking for a quick intoxication.  Look at a picture of the beverage on-line and you will see why it is easy to confuse.

 So, if teens buy a can of Four Loko, it is the equivalent of drinking 3 beers and contains the same amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee!!!   This sounds disgusting to me, but it’s the ”perfect buzz” for adolescents. The problem with this concoction is that while teenagers are consuming a can or two of Four Loko, the caffeine actually delays the effect of the alcohol.  Once the caffeine wears off, the effects of 3-6 beers kicks in and the effects of the alcohol may cause alcohol related issues and emergencies. Several hospitals on the east coast have seen emergency room admissions among teens who have consumed Four Loko, and are alerting other physicians to be aware of cases of alcohol intoxication. I am sure that there are other areas who are seeing teens and underage young adults who may have purchased Four Loko as store clerks accidently sell this alcoholic drink to minors. No need for a fake ID here. Talk to your teens about this drink and the hazards of drinking and in this case combining caffeine and alcohol. It seems that the inventive company behind Four Loko has packaged the “perfect” drink for this age group as teens had previously had to combine their own alcohol (name your favorite) with Red Bull to allow them to drink more and have the caffeine to keep them awake. This is not a good combination, but seems to be the perfect “energy drunk drink” for teens. That's your daiy dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Binge Drinking

As a parent of college-aged children one of the biggest concerns of the fall is also binge drinking.College football is in the air and with the season comes the ritual of pre-game tailgates and post-game celebrations. As a parent of college-aged children one of the biggest concerns of the fall is also binge drinking. Watching televised football games this season only reinforced concerns as every other ad seemed to be alcohol related and really geared to the humor of an adolescent, they were definitely not targeting a middle aged woman.

Alcohol is the number one health risk facing college students and according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health about 44 percent of college students binge drink. Than means that they drink more than five drinks in a row for a man and four drinks for a woman in the past two weeks. Many college students do this three to four nights a week and don't perceive this as a problem. Thursday is the new Friday and for many Wednesday is the new Thursday. If you have a college student, I know you have talked to them about alcohol and binge drinking, but it may be the time of year to re-visit that discussion. Winning a big game is a cause for celebration, but not necessarily for binge drinking. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

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