Parents throughout the ages have suffered numerous concerns about the behaviour of their adolescent sons and daughters. As the years go by, however, it seems that the causes for concern, not to mention the seriousness of the issues, just keep increasing.
Pick up any newspaper just about anywhere in Europe, America, Canada and a host of other countries and you will see evidence of the growing culture of binge drinking, not just in adolescents, but also in children as young as six or seven. This is not just social drinking in the sense that we have come to understand it over the years, but is fuelled by the intention to get drunk, usually in a very short space of time. One of the common standards for determining what constitutes binge drinking is five or more standard measures of alcohol for males, and four or more for females, within the space of around one hour.
Aside from the potentially lethal result of alcohol poisoning and the possibility of choking on or inhaling vomit, drinking large quantities of alcohol leaves youngsters and adults alike vulnerable to a number of other considerable dangers. Falls, accidents (some involving motor vehicles) and alcohol-fuelled fights all represent significant risks, but in addition to these, the state of drunkenness can also lead to promiscuous sexual behaviour and unprotected sex, as well as other highly risky behaviour.
Reports now suggest that one in three 15 to 16-year old girls in the UK admits to binge drinking, and it is in females that the behaviour is growing fastest. Far from ending up in a giggly and somewhat 'legless' state, however, the last seven or eight years have seen young women indulging in increasing levels of violence and criminal behaviour. In fact, the rise in lawlessness amongst binge-drinking females amounts to almost 300 per cent during that time.
As a parent, recognising and dealing with the signs that your child or teenager is regularly indulging in episodes of binge drinking is vital, not only in order to avoid the more immediate dangers, but also because excessive drinking at an earlier age can lead to an increased chance of developing alcoholism later on in life. In fact, statistics show that 35 per cent of adults who have drink-related problems began binge drinking by the age of nineteen.
Although it may be tempting to compare your teenager's behaviour with that of others, this is often not an effective way to gauge whether their behaviour is in any way out of the ordinary and might indicate a drinking problem. Instead, look for individual changes in personality and behaviour within the home, at school and in their social lives. Have they become more irritable than usual, depressed or withdrawn? Is their performance at school on the wane or have they begun skipping school altogether? Have they started stealing money from your purse or wallet to fund their drinking, or have they suddenly started mixing with a different crowd of friends?
Although there are steps that parents can themselves take to try to help their children to drink sensibly and responsibly, if you do suspect that there is a real problem, then it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible in order to avoid potentially tragic consequences.