By Greg Skibinski, MA, LCPC, CADC, CSAT, CMAT, Executive Director, Agape Counseling, LTD
It’s back to school time once again! It’s time for homework, hanging
out with friends, cliques, peer pressure, parties, and trips to the
emergency room for alcohol poisoning. It is scary to think about it that
way, but today’s teens are choosing to turn to hard alcohol. Teens are
enticed to use harder forms of alcohol, according to fellow teens, and
for several reasons: it works faster than beer; they feel they need to
relieve stress; peer pressure; curiosity; trying to copy, or emulate,
their parent’s or adult behavior; because it feels good and it is easy
In a recent June 15, 2014 article in Medical Daily, it was noted that a
new study had found that teenagers are drinking in larger quantities
than adults. When they do, they are indulging in more hard liquor than
other drinks, like beer. Other results in that study found that half of
all underage drinkers in the United States drink vodka.
Researchers had asked participants about their drinking behavior and
habits over a 30-day period in the survey. They also assessed for binge
drinking, which was defined as five or more drinks in a row for males
and four or more drinks in a row for females. Drinking habits were
assessed by the respondents in regards to their drinking behavior which
included 900 brands of alcohol that comprised 16 different categories of
alcoholic beverages. The survey concluded that participants drank hard
liquor or spirits in 44 percent of binge drinking incidents. Vodka was
consumed 27 percent of the time and was the cause of 23 percent of all
Binge drinking can cause teens to pass out, black out (lose memory of
events that occurred while intoxicated), feel sick, miss school, or
behave in a way that would otherwise be uncharacteristic of them. Some
binge drinkers binge on the weekends and abstain or drink in moderation
during the week.
According to a new U.S. government survey of teenage drinking, another
study posted in Health Day News on July 26, 2014, it was reported that
hard liquor is the drink of choice in four states among 40 percent of
teenagers who try alcohol. Bourbon, rum, scotch, vodka, and whiskey were
consumed more than beer by high school students who drank in Arkansas,
New Mexico, Nebraska, and Wyoming, according to a report in the current
issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, a publication from the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the most part, the
finding held true for both genders and across all racial groups.
Researchers suggested several reasons why hard alcohol might be
preferable to beer among teens. Reasons included are the fact that it’s
easier to hide by mixing it with a soft drink, tasting better to
beginning drinkers, and that alcohol levels are higher in liquor, so
binge drinkers feel the effects faster.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that
5,000 underage drinkers die from alcohol related tragedies every year
and that binge drinking accounts for most of the alcohol consumed by
youth in the U.S. “Binge drinking is associated with a host of negative
consequences, including drunk driving, sexual assaults, and suicide,”
said lead author Dr. Timothy Niami, associate professor at the Boston
University School of Public Health.
Today, the average age an American girl has her first drink is 13; and
for a boy, it’s age 11. It becomes more popular in mid-adolescence and
peaks in college years. Young people who drink are more likely to be the
victims of violent crime, alcohol-related traffic accidents, and can
lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Parents should educate their
children about alcohol and need to be aware of their children’s access
to liquor in their home, regardless if it is locked up or not. It’s
important to set the stage early by letting your teenager know that he
or she can talk to you about anything, without judgment or lecturing.
Parents, it’s important to open up and listen, ask open-ended questions,
listen to the answers without interrupting, and discuss your family
history. If your family has had problems with alcohol, your child should
know about it, and allow them to be informed. Be open and honest about
your experiences with alcohol, too. Set clear expectations and rules
with your teen, making sure that you are communicating your values.
Adolescents are less likely to drink when they know that their parents
and other important adults in their lives have strong feelings about it.
Control your emotions. If you hear something that upsets you, take a
few deep breaths and express your feelings in a positive way. Ask about
your teenager’s friends. Express an interest in getting to know them
better. Getting to know these friends and their parents will help you
understand your teenager’s world and it can also save their life.
Does this article hit home with you? Agape Counseling can help. They are a group of Christian counselors, social workers, psychologists and support staff committed to a therapeutic process that ministers to the whole person. Their Bloomington office is located at 211 N. Veterans Parkway (next to Krispy Kreme). They also have offices in Morton and Peoria. For more information, call 309-692-4433 or visit their website at www.agapecounselors.net.
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