Drinking themselves Stupid
Binge drinking in teens reaching epidemic proportions
Do you drink until you’re drunk – but only on weekends? Do you defend your teenager’s drinking because “all her friends drink, and it’s only at parties”? Binge drinking, “the consumption of five or more drinks in one sitting” (WHO), has become a serious problem among South African youth where 15.8% of boys and 9% of girls had their first drink before they were 13 (The South African Youth Risk Survey, 2002).
The seriousness of underage drinking is frighteningly underestimated. According to research, children who are binge drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems as adults, or get involved in criminal activity. (Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health). Alcohol also lowers inhibitions so teens put themselves in potentially dangerous situations and do things they wouldn’t normally do. Binge drinking is high risk that can result in addiction, STI’s and death.
According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a teen’s average day often includes drinking, smoking or drug use. Experimentation is common but dangerous and teens often don’t see the relationship between their actions today and the consequences for their future. Teens feel immune to issues like drug addiction, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, HIV… and so it’s vital that parents realise that alcohol is lethal and destroying the lives of South Africa’s teens. Programmes exist for teens, parents and teachers to help them deal with the very real issues facing SA’s youth. “Parents and teachers often feel lost and have a hard time knowing how to handle teens”, says Cassey Amoore, Counselling Manager of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. “too often, teachers notice changes in behaviour but don’t know what they mean or what to do so they ignore them. This can have tragic results. SADAG offers talks and workshops that give practical advice and interventions.”
SADAG, with the support of the Department of Social Development, launched the national toll-free substance abuse line in June. Since then, they have received an overwhelming number of calls from parents whose children and teenagers are addicted to alcohol or drugs. “Teens don’t think binge drinking on weekends is a problem, parents too often feel that they drank too so where’s the harm… alcohol is freely available, socially acceptable – expected even – and teens who are bored, depressed or going through a tough time have an easy escape for a while”, says Project Director Janine Shamos. “It’s vital that programmes aimed at the youth don’t only target substance abuse but also the underlying issues of low self-esteem, peer pressure, depression and family stress”. The line is open seven days a week on 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312.
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Drinking themselves Stupid
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