USA

Binge drinking, a sad development

The American neurologist S. Swartzwelder explains that even binge drinking (drinking five or six glasses of alcohol at a rapid pace) leads to permanent brain damage. What inspires young people to voluntarily drink themselves to death, also known as binge drinking, is a mystery to many adults. A few things probably play a role: the childish ‘wanting to act tough’ and ‘being afraid of not fitting in.’

The consequences of binge drinking are serious

Using MRI scans, neurologist Swartzwelder shows that the brains of children have already suffered permanent damage after drinking five or six glasses of alcohol in a row. Swartzwelder explains that drinking alcohol reduces intelligence and that children will be less able to express themselves emotionally after drinking a lot of alcohol. That damage is permanent. Binge drinking has serious consequences.

Competitive drinking and binge drinking

Children aged 12-15 years or older are increasingly admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning. Through competitive drinking or binge drinking, which shows that these children cannot handle alcohol, a lot of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time. This often concerns spirits, but sometimes also just beer or breezer. Alcohol is drunk in large quantities in a relatively short time, causing (brain) damage. Some young people see binge drinking and competitive drinking as a kind of sport, which is of course a sad development. In Germany, a 16-year-old high school student died after drinking a lot of tequila. The alcohol level in his blood was 4.4 per mille. Doctors tried in vain for several weeks to save his poisoned body, but the damage was simply too great. (Source: de Bild) Dutch young people drink an alarming amount. The use of alcohol is generally accepted and many parents apparently find it normal for their children to drink alcohol. However, alcohol is classified as hard drugs under Dutch law. Alcohol may only be consumed (and purchased) by young people who are 18 years or older.

Alcohol policy

Several hospitals have opened an alcohol clinic since so many young people are brought in with alcohol poisoning. If the young people survive the alcohol poisoning, which fortunately usually is the case, discussions follow with doctors, psychologists and addiction care providers.

Role of the parents

Parents have an important role when it comes to raising children, which of course also includes providing information about alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol for children under the age of 18 should not be approved or condoned at all. Children under the age of eighteen are not allowed to buy alcohol because the risks for these children are too great and the damage is too serious. Drinking alcohol permanently damages the brains of very young people, especially because children under the age of 18 are still growing and their brains are still developing. As a parent, it is important to be clear in your position against alcohol use for children under the age of eighteen. If your children are going to a party, take the time to ask the parents or organizers in advance whether alcohol will be served and, if so, make it clear that your child is not allowed to drink alcohol yet. Your children may not like that you want to protect them, but it is your job as an educator to do what you can do to prevent your child from becoming a victim of alcohol harm. If a shopkeeper has sold alcoholic beverages to a child under the age of 18, do not leave it there but report it to the police. The retailer then receives a hefty fine for violating the law. Be clear with your children and do not accept that they drink alcohol before the age of 18 and explain why that is important. Then be consistent. No is no.

When to drink alcohol?

Children and young people often do not know how to limit their drinking of alcohol, with all the associated risks. Even after the age of sixteen, the brain is still developing. Drinking a lot of alcohol is never (!) safe. It is best for parents to make clear agreements with adolescents about moderating alcohol consumption. Children from the age of 18 are allowed to purchase alcohol. They must show their ID if the shopkeeper doubts their age. If you want to teach your children how to drink alcohol, serve them an occasional glass at home once your children are adults. Teach your children in time that alcohol is a hard drug because of its effects and risks, that it is addictive and that it is harmful. Teach your children to drink alcohol in moderation, for example half a glass of white wine with water. They can then get used to the effect of alcohol at home. Someone who has never drunk alcohol can get drunk after a glass of wine or a glass of beer. The drink can also go wrong, especially on an empty stomach. Drinking water when consuming alcohol is also important to prevent the risk of dehydration. Drinking a glass of water regularly at a party can prevent a hangover and reduce risks. However, drinking a lot of alcohol is always harmful. Teach your child how to handle alcohol and to stop in time. Point out the dangers of drinking alcohol in a group and role-play peer pressure. In a group there is often pressure to participate. You should be able to say no if you want to.

How can they react when other young people want to binge drink? You can teach them to answer that they just think that’s stupid and that they don’t want to get sick. How can they react if someone who has been drinking wants to get behind the wheel? You can teach them not to get into a car if the driver is not sober, and they should be able to count on your help. If you discuss these things ahead of time, they will be better prepared.

Alcohol and traffic, don’t think: everything will be fine

Just like adults, adolescents (and/or children) who drink a few glasses of alcohol at the weekend can no longer cycle home safely or participate in traffic in any other way. As parents, take the time to pick them up or arrange with other parents to pick up or drop off the children. Take alcohol seriously. It is and remains a hard drug.

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