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Teen Alcohol Consumption

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Teen alcohol consumption is on the rise in the US. A survey measures teen use, abuse, and attitudes toward drug use. 21.6 percent of high school seniors and 6.4 percent of 8th graders admitted that they have consumed alcohol. The kids consumed five or more alcoholic beverages in a row in the two weeks prior to the Monitoring the Future study.

Since the 1970s, Monitoring the Future, based at the University of Michigan, studies the attitudes that kids have toward drugs and alcohol. They also monitor actual use of a wide range of substances. In the same study, 49.9 percent of high school seniors stated they had illegally consumed alcohol in the prior year.

Clearly, alcohol abuse is a problem among teens in this country. When dealing with a teenager who has a drinking problem, arm yourself with the facts. Know about alcohol and make sure you communicate your knowledge and concerns to your child.

My Teen Only Drinks Beer – That’s Safer Than Wine or Liquor, Right?

When it comes to alcohol, it isn’t the type of alcohol, but the quantity that matters. Beer can be just as lethal and addictive as any other type of alcohol, from wine to whiskey. Each type of alcohol has a different alcohol content, or percentage of ethanol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism:

  • Beer has between 4.2 and 5 percent alcohol (beer sold in Utah has a maximum 3.2 percent of alcohol content)
  • Malt liquor has 7 percent alcohol generally
  • Wine has approximately 12 to 17 percent alcohol, depending upon whether it is table wine or fortified wine
  • Cordials have roughly 24 percent alcohol
  • Liquor (Distilled spirits), and brandy, have roughly 40 percent alcohol

These numbers might make beer seem the safest. Yet, the same amount of alcohol is required to produce the euphoria the alcoholic or “party” drinker is looking for. Therefore, they will simply continue to drink until their blood alcohol content reaches inebriation. The type of alcohol doesn’t matter. By contrast, rubbing alcohol (which is a wood alcohol and not grain alcohol) has between 40 and 70 percent alcohol. Mouthwash is something that alcoholics will sometimes drink instead of alcohol. Sometimes, this comes after a promise to their loved ones that they will not drink anymore. For teens, it is an alternative when they cannot find anyone to purchase alcoholic beverages for them. Mouthwash contains about 25 percent ethanol, as well as a host of other compounds that can harm the body and mind.

What Is a Normal Serving of Alcohol?

This is determined by the alcohol content of a particular drink. A beer is generally 12 ounces at an alcohol percentage of about 5 percent. Because malt liquor has more alcohol, a normal serving is between 8 to 9 ounces, instead. The sizes of the drinks go down from there with only 1.5 ounces of hard liquor having the same effect on the body and brain as 12 ounces of beer.

When an alcoholic is drinking to assuage a craving, they aren’t concerned with the size of the drinks they mix. They are not concerned with the number of beers they drink each day. The disease of alcoholism won’t allow them to be concerned about such things.

How Many Drinks Does It Take to Become Inebriated?

While blood alcohol content is generally the same for everyone, a person’s size has a definite effect on intoxication. In many states, including California, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, a person is legally drunk when their blood alcohol content reaches 0.08 percent. But it will take a linebacker weighing in at 240 pounds longer to reach that point that it will his 110-pound cheerleader girlfriend. Unfortunately, there is a chance both of these teens are drinking the same amount of alcohol at the same rate.

Generally, a person of average weight can consume two alcoholic beverages per hour and metabolize them enough to be legally sober. Yet, it is important to remember that teenagers are not permitted, by law, to drink before the age of 21.

Binge Drinking: A Life Changing Activity That Isn’t Worth the Risks

The Mayo Clinic defines “binge drinking” as “downing five or more drinks in a row.” This is also the number used by the Monitoring the Future study when they asked about drinking habits in their annual survey for 2011. Binge drinking is a huge problem. A teen who has who’s been binge drinking may call it a night, go home, crawl into bed. They may think that they can sleep off the alcohol’s effects while their body is digesting. But they can absorb the fatal dose of alcohol they consumed fifteen minutes earlier.

During sleep, the body could be suffering from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol Overdose

When a person drinks too much over the course of an evening, they will generally have specific symptoms to indicate that. Slurred speech, a decrease in body temperature, an unsteady gait and a euphoric feeling are all signs that one has consumed too much alcohol. Yet, when the same amount of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time, the body needs time to digest and absorb the alcohol before the effects begin.

The individual may continue to consume alcohol for much longer than is safe, resulting in serious signs of overdose, such as:

  • Vomiting. This is the body’s way of getting rid of toxins and poisons. If an individual has become physically ill from drinking alcohol, they need medical attention as quickly as possible.
  • Slowed Breathing. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. A sign of alcohol poisoning is breathing fewer than eight times in a minute or failing to breathe for more than 10 seconds in between breaths.
  • Inability to wake. When you call your child’s name, they should wake up. They should respond to shaking or loud sounds. If they do not, they may not be sleeping. They might be unconscious or in a coma. Worse, they could still be “getting drunker” as their last drinks are absorbed into their bloodstream.
  • Hypothermia. Low body temperature is often a result of consuming too much alcohol. Alcohol lowers the body’s core temperature. Drinking in cold weather outdoors, particularly to excess, increases the risk of suffering fatal hypothermia.

Talk to Your Child About Alcohol Abuse Today

Consider making an alcohol-free pact with your teen. Keep this throughout college and consistently remind them of the dangers of alcohol abuse.

The National Parent Teacher Association has some advice for parents to help prevent drinking. According to their website, most children report that they do not drink because of peer pressure. Rather, they just want to have fun and they are bored. To combat this attitude, the PTA offers tips.  Parents must set specific expectations for their children, fill them with a strong sense of self-esteem. Communicate about the availability of alcohol in schools and social groups. Most relevant, parents should note that you know they may have the opportunity to drink.

What if My Child Is Already Suffering From Alcoholism?

At Newport Academy, we specialize in the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions in young people. Our programs use the most up-to-date, cutting-edge treatments. We also use evidence-based complementary therapies. With a focus on academics and an understanding of the importance of education, our programs can help your child overcome addiction.

Call one of our admissions counselors today. We are here to offer more information about how to talk to your child about alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and get the answers you both deserve.