Alarming numbers of high school seniors try extreme binge drinking–consuming as many as 10 or 15 alcoholic drinks in one sitting, according to a research recently published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The new study marks the first investigation to dissect extreme binge drinking in a representative group of teens. Investigators analyzed data from more than 16,000 high school seniors who completed a questionnaire about how much they drank for the two weeks prior to the study. Results show that one in 10 high school seniors have tried extreme binge drinking (10 or more drinks in a row) and almost six percent have consumed 15 or more drinks.
The JAMA Pediatrics study also found that:
- Those who had 15 or more drinks at a single sitting were significantly more likely to use other types of drugs than those who did not binge drink.
- Students whose parents aren’t college-educated are more likely to engage in extreme binge drinking.
- Extreme binge drinking is more common for rural high school seniors than urban or suburban students.
While the percentage of high school seniors who engage in extreme binge drinking has not changed in recent years, the percentage who binge-drink has declined overall. (Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks for boys or four or more drinks for girls during a two-hour period. One serving of alcohol equals four ounces of wine; 12 ounces of beer; 12 ounces of wine cooler; a shot glass of hard liquor; or one mixed drink.)
What Can Parents Do?
Parents need to take the lead in explaining the dangers of binge drinking and extreme binge drinking. They should warn that new research shows that binge drinking can impair normal growth and development of their brains, which continue to mature into the mid-20s. Furthermore, teens’ repeated binge drinking can foster an addiction to alcohol and other substances.
Other ways to deter binge drinking and extreme binge drinking:
- Tell your teen that alcohol is not allowed until age 21.
- Lay down rules and conditions for alcohol use with clear, explicit consequences for violation of specific terms. Draw up a contract to make it even more concrete.
- Model good behavior for teens: Never get behind the wheel after drinking, and explain the importance of a designated driver when drinking with a group of people.
- Speak openly about any family history of alcoholism or drug abuse. There is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, so teens need to know if they are at more risk for alcoholism or other addiction.