Prom season is around the corner, and with it comes the unavoidable talks about teenage binge drinking at parties across America. We glance over the cost that underage binge drinking has on society — more than 4,300 youths die every year and the economic costs were around $24 billion in 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite its immediate humanitarian and economical costs, the biggest problem with binge drinking remains the pattern it creates for future behavior.
According to the CDC, those aged 12–20 are responsible for 11 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the United States, which is a reasonable number considering underage drinking is illegal. However, the scarier part is that over 90 percent of all that alcohol is consumed through some form of binge drinking. This data is corroborated by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health which reported in 2013 that, in the 30 days leading up to the survey, almost a quarter of youths in the 12–20 age range drank alcohol, and 14 percent of them were binge drinking.
The biggest issue with underage binge drinking is that a good number of those teenagers continue to binge drink into adulthood, as reported by an 2005 Addiction article, “Adolescent Drinking Level and Adult Binge Drinking in a National Birth Cohort.” The article “Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility” underlines teenage binge drinkers as three times more likely than non-binge drinkers to contract alcohol-related disorders, especially when they develop those tendencies at a very young age. The article also notes that binge drinking was more frequent during prom season. Watch out, kids — not only does binge drinking directly affect a teenager’s future health, but it also has a tendency to lead to other risky behavior, as reported by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Binge drinkers are 11 times more likely to engage in drug use, physical violence and unsafe sexual behaviors.
There are ways to reduce underage binge drinking, however. As an article by the New York Times reports, it all comes down to education: Children can be educated to drink responsibly. Countries where drinking wine at meals is the norm usually rank among the least risky, according to the World Health Organization. One of those countries is France, which honors all stereotypes of a typical fine-wine drinking country. France also has reportedly lower rates of binge drinking on college campuses than America does.
Alcohol consumption has become such a taboo subject in American households that we neglect to educate teenagers about responsible ways to drink. By learning how to drink responsibly, teenagers are better prepared and less inclined to engage in excessive consumption. Encouraging teenagers to drink reasonably instead of just warning them of the consequences is a better strategy to handle binge-drinking problems