high school binge drinkingSome bad news from the CDC. We all know that teens drink, whether parents allow them to or not. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that more than half – about 58 percent – of high school students who drink are binge drinkers.

One one level, it’s an obvious finding. Teens generally overdo things – they’re binge video gamers, binge Frisbee players, binge music listeners, binge social networkers. When they find something fun, they tend to push the end of the envelope.

On another level, high school binge drinking is very disturbing. Binge drinking can be deadly, especially in young people, whose brains are not fully developed. Teens who drink are more likely to develop alcohol dependence. Alcohol can also cause problems with memory, motor skills and brain function.

The CDC defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in a row.

Why High School Binge Drinking Matters

Excessive drinking takes about 4,300 under-21 lives each year. Many students who binge drink do so at a high intensity – 8 or more drinks in a row.

Alcohol use in teens can lead to emotional problems, relationship difficulties, school and job problems, sexual assault and domestic violence. Physical consequences can include more frequent injuries, liver, brain, and nerve damage.

Teen Drinking: What Can Be Done?

The CDC report calls for use of evidence-based prevention strategies for excessive high school binge drinking.

  • Increasing alcohol taxes.
  • Regulating alcohol outlet density.
  • Instituting commercial host liability laws (laws which hold establishments liable for damages caused by teen drinking that occurs at that establishment). This is different from standard underage drinking laws, which prosecute the serving. Dram shop laws, as they are commonly known, make servers consider the damage that their drinking could cause – drunk driving collisions, alcohol poisoning, and injury.

There is also evidence that talking to teens works, provided it’s done early enough and in the right spirit. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers some guidance on how parents can approach this difficult but vital subject with their kids.

The CDC report on high school binge drinking might not come as a surprise – but it should be a call to action nonetheless. These are our kids, and they deserve a chance for a healthy, safe future.

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