Teen Binge Drinking in Clay County
The teenage years are an important time for self-discovery for kids. When a teen hits a speed bump on the road of life, it can be tough for parents to watch. When you try to talk to them, your efforts are often met with, "I'm fine" or "It's nothing." But how do we know when to step in, especially when alcohol is involved or, even worse, if they're binge drinking?
What is Binge Drinking?
The CDC defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 g/dl or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours. Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18–34 years and most people younger than age 21 who drink alcohol report binge drinking, often consuming large amounts.
Is Binge Drinking a Problem in Clay County?
In short, yes. The number of students in grades 6-12 in Clay County reporting binge drinking activities has consistently polled higher than the state average in Kansas.
During the past 30 days, on how many days did you have 5 or more drinks on the same occasion? (By 'occasion', we mean at the same time or within a couple of hours of each other).
Common Reasons Why Teens Binge Drink
Teens are more likely to binge drink because the pleasure center of the teenage brain develops quicker than the part of their brain that controls decision-making. Physically, they don’t react to alcohol the way adults do. Drinking makes teens feel good, and their brains are not considering the consequences.
Peer pressure continues to be another reason why teens binge drink. This may not be a new concept to you, but it may be new to your teen. Fitting in is a major concern for teens and often they will (mistakenly) think alcohol is the answer.
There are other reasons kids choose to drink alcohol: they want to feel mature, they mimic their favorite celebrities on social media, they’re restless and bored, or they just think it’s no big deal. This is where kids are wrong, and parents need to step in, because the consequences of underage drinking, and especially binge drinking, could be deadly.
Signs of Underage Drinking
If your parental sixth sense is telling you something is wrong, don’t ignore it. Your child may be struggling with alcohol, or it may be something else. Either way, they need your help. Signs that your teen may be binge drinking include:
Staying out late and missing curfew
Smelling of alcohol or slurred speech
Missing or watered-down alcohol in your home
Change in mood or becoming secretive
Changing friend groups
Experiencing depression or anxiety
If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, you need to investigate and get to the root of the problem. Early intervention can help your teen before something more serious happens, like they decide to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
So What Can a Caregiver Do About It?
Don't give up on your kids. Create an open dialogue and come from a place of concern instead of lecturing. Teens know it’s illegal for them to drink under the age of 21. They know parents would not approve of drinking parties. While they’re desperately trying to grow up quickly, they still want you to be proud of them. Parents can give kids the tools to make it easier for them to follow the rules. Talk to them openly and honestly about situations they may find themselves in, such as feeling pressured to drink at a party.
If you think your child needs help, don't be afraid to get others involved. School counselors and social workers at the schools can help connect you to resources or talk through problems or concerns with you. They can be your ally in helping your child to safely reconnect with the things they love to do.
Pawnee Mental Health can screen for Substance Use Disorders and they also have a Crisis/Emergency Hotline that is available 24/7 at 1-800-609-2002. Also, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national 24-hour helpline. They can provide information and treatment referrals: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).