Drinking is not uncommon among teens, but it's not common for them to know the impact that binge drinking can have on their personal lives and health. Emily Thibodeaux, substance abuse counselor at Louisiana Tech University, encourages parents to not only talk to teens about binge drinking, but also understand why they may be engaging in that behavior.
On common misconceptions teens and parents need to know about binge drinking
For men, binge drinking is five or more drinks in a two-hour setting. For women, binge drinking is four or more drinks in a two-hour setting. I think teens think it’s the "cool" thing to do. They think it’s the “happening thing” – everyone’s doing it at school. They don’t truly understand what it means to drink as much as they’re drinking.
On the consequences of binge drinking for young people
Kids can get in trouble at school. With their family life, they can be grounded and lose a lot of short-term privileges if they continue down the path. Health-wise, there’s liver disease. We see a lot of that. In the long-run people may get cancer in the liver and end up dying from that.
On the common misconception “well I’m only young once and it’s no big deal for me to do this for a while”
They’re always saying “I’m young. My body’s healthy. Why not do it now?” The reality is, they’re not thinking about the long-term. Your body is the only body that you’re going to have. You need to take care of your body while you can.
On having this conversation about binge drinking with a teen or young adult in my household
Knowing the facts about binge drinking is probably the most important, but it is also important to understand what is making them do this. Why do they think they have to binge drink as often as they do? What’s the reason behind it? Talking, listening, and reminding them of short and long-term consequences they face.
On common reasons that teens binge drink and resources available for them
A lot of teens want to escape reality. I hear that a lot in addiction. A lot of youth say, “I don’t want to feel. I don’t want to deal with the stress of life. I don’t want to deal with the stress of break-ups.” It’s important to talk to them first, but there are multiple outlets. There’s the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) website. It has treatment locators and articles to help parents talk to their teens or another adult about why they’re binge drinking and how to get them help. Ultimately, they have to be ready for help before you can help them.