Alcohol is one of the most abused substances among teenagers in the US. The minimum drinking age in the United States is 21 years old, but that hasn’t stopped teenagers from participating in alcohol consumption. Studies show that young people between the ages of 12 to 20 consume almost 13% of the country’s alcohol in a calendar year due to binge drinking.
No matter the age, binge drinking can pose serious health risks to anyone engaging in overdrinking, including teens. The health risks associated with the overconsumption of alcohol should be of concern to parents. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to dependency and, oftentimes, requires professional intervention.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as when a person consumes enough alcohol to bring their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. For adults, binge drinking is when a man or woman consumes four to five drinks in a two-hour time frame. However, it takes fewer drinks for youth, roughly three to four consumed in the same timeframe for the same effects as adults.
While binge drinking can happen at any age, there has been a recent trend in teens and young adults to binge drink during social occasions. Excessive drinking can have many health effects that can develop dependency and mental health issues.
The Impact of Binge Drinking on the Teen Brain
Alcohol has adverse effects on the brain. Further, heavy alcohol use can hinder the development of a teenager’s brain. Binge drinking impacts cognitive functions such as memory, coordination, attention, and social functioning. During the teenage years, the frontal lobe and hippocampus share a relationship with impulse control, addiction, motivation, and long-and-short term memory.
Alcohol is also a form of neurotoxin. Neurotoxins are natural or synthetic substances that cause damage or impair parts of the brain, specifically the central and peripheral nervous systems. They increase the chance of developing heart disease; brain inquires, cancer, and other serious health problems. Long-term alcohol use in teens can also develop an array of disorders known as alcohol-related brain injuries (ARBI).
Health Risks for Teens
Heavy drinking impacts teens’ physical, mental, and behavioral health on many different levels. Although side effects and health risks are different for everyone, there are common risks associated with binge drinking, including:
- Physical Health: Studies show that teens who binge-drink throughout high school have a higher chance of becoming overweight before turning 25. Long-term alcohol use can also cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart complications. It prevents the heart from pumping enough blood, causing the heart to weaken over time. It can also cause an abnormal heart rhythm where it beats too fast, slow, or irregularly.
- Mental Health: Heavy alcohol use also has serious effects on teens’ mental health both in the present and later on in life. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant meaning it can slow down the brain’s functioning. When you over-drink, it can trigger depression and anxiety. Some teens consume alcohol to cope or suppress their feelings of anxiety and depression. At first, they may receive the stimulation they crave and feel less tense and anxious as they drink. But as soon as the buzz goes away, their depression or anxiety may be more intense than before, especially after a hangover.
- Behavioral Health: Underage drinking leads to numerous behavioral issues in teens, many of which have serious consequences. Teens who binge drink engage in more violent behaviors such as rape, assault, and physical altercations. Car accidents caused by drunk driving are one of the leading causes of death among younger people. Issues like peer pressure or social settings often cause teens to get behind the wheel impaired and lead to car accidents where some result in death.
Treatment for Alcohol Use
When it comes to quitting heavy alcohol use, always consult a professional for help. Withdrawal symptoms from any substance can be very intense, and there should always be medical help around if needed. Although binge drinking is not considered full alcohol addiction, for teens who drink alcohol heavily, quitting cold turkey without any help is not recommended.
Treatment options for alcohol use range from full 24-hour care in a residential or inpatient treatment center to intensive outpatient treatment and therapy services. Due to the differences in symptoms and health risks in teens compared to adults, you should find treatment options and mental health professionals specializing in treating teens and adolescents. Understand that there is help available to meet your teen’s individual needs.
If you are a teen and notice that you or a friend have been consuming high amounts of alcohol, you may be engaging in binge drinking. Understand that serious health risks come with consuming high amounts of alcohol in a short or long time frame. Clearfork Academy understands the importance of getting alcohol abuse under control before it spirals into full addiction. Although binge drinking is not alcoholism itself, it can lead to a substance use disorder when left untreated. We help our patients take the first step towards sobriety through our medical detox program and intensive inpatient treatment. We also offer outpatient treatment for teens who may not require 24-hour care. If you or someone you love needs help for an addiction or mental health issue, then get help today. To find out more about our treatment programs and therapies, contact Clearfork Academy today by calling us at (888) 966-8604.