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Binge Drinking and Teens

Raising teenagers can be one of the most rewarding experiences in parenting. There is something amazing about seeing a child turn into a young adult and start making good decisions that are based on their own personalities and moral compass.

Testing limits and alcohol use

However, there are times when teenagers will experiment and test their decisions. By age 18, 60% of all teenagers have drunk at least once. 1 out of 10 will binge drink —meaning drinking 4 or more drinks in one setting.

Binge drinking is the primary behavior for youth when consuming alcohol. The reason most youth binge drink is their limited access to alcohol and social pressure.

Drinking alcohol and binge drinking becomes more prevalent as children get older. 5.1 million youth reported binge drinking and 1.3 million reported binge drinking 5 or more times in a month.

Why is binge drinking so dangerous for teens? 

Binge drinking, especially when paired with the developing brain of a teenager, can significantly increase the risk of serious injury and death. Alcohol factors into the deaths of 4,358 young people each year and 188,000 emergency room visits for alcohol related injuries.

Alcohol can alter the developing brain of young adults and can affect the way their brains work. It can alter their cognitive and learning functions and make them more prone to chemical and alcohol dependence later in life — especially if they are binge drinking.

How do you know if your child is binge drinking?

The best way to know is to ask your child directly if they have or are drinking alcohol. Some other signs may be:

  • Changes in mood, including anger and irritability
  • Academic and/or behavioral problems in school
  • Rebelliousness
  • Changing groups of friends
  • Low energy level
  • Less interest in activities and/or care in appearance
  • Finding alcohol among a young person’s things
  • Smelling alcohol on a young person’s breath
  • Problems concentrating and/or remembering
  • Slurred speech
  • Coordination problems

What can you do if your child is binge drinking?

The best way to deal with underage alcohol use and binge drinking is to share the facts with your children and to open a dialogue to discuss stressors, social pressure and their desire for independence.

Empower your children to make healthy and educated decisions for themselves within the guidelines of your family rules of conduct. As parents, children look to you for boundaries and expectations on behavior. Set firm and clear expectations.

You can help your teen avoid alcohol problems by:

  • Explain the dangers of drinking. Use facts.
  • Be a positive role model.
  • Avoid having alcohol readily available
  • Know your children’s friends and connect with their parents
  • Have open conversations with your children about their lives and what’s happening
  • Encouraging kids to participate in healthy and fun activities that do not involve alcohol

Get actively involved with your teen

Research shows that children whose parents are actively involved in their lives are less likely to drink alcohol. On the other hand, research shows that a child with a parent who binge drinks is much more likely to binge drink than a child whose parents do not binge drink.

If the problem persists, speak to your physician about substance abuse screenings and counseling.


Thomas Baer, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic - Malvern

As early as the third grade Dr. Thomas Baer knew he wanted to be a doctor. Growing up in southwest Iowa, he saw that the medical care was excellent - but there just weren't enough doctors. He decided to return to his hometown and fulfill that need.  Having known many of his patients since infancy, he cares deeply for each person. His mission is to use every skill he has to keep every individual healthy and thriving for years to come. Dr. Baer is dedicated to the promoting the wellbein ...

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