The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled underage drinking a major health concern. There are nearly 5,000 kids aged 12 to 20 who die every year from alcohol poisoning.
The year 2010 saw 189,060 emergency room visits tied to underage drinking, with almost 77,000 of those kids being 12 to 17 years old. The alcohol industry claims they are not advertising in such a way to promote this kind of behavior, but if you look at the youth magazines, TV shows, music, and websites it tells a vastly different story. The industry is spending well over $2 billion per year just on advertising. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, those underage are consuming over 800,000 drinks per month, or 20 percent of the drinks sold. A Canadian survey that measured 7,726 students in grades 7-12 stated that two-thirds of the students admitted to drinking in the last year. Twenty-five percent of boys and 20 percent of girls reported binge drinking in the last year as well.
Kids are experimenting with alcohol early, which has been linked to later abuse and dependence problems. There’s a good chance that they are being exposed to alcohol through a variety of methods, not only through ads from the alcohol industry, but also within their own family and friend groups. It is very possible that these kids are seeing adults have a few drinks and expect they can handle just as many, if not more. But in reality, binge drinking consists of five or more standard drinks for men or four or more standard drinks for women in a row in a short period of time.
Alcohol is a toxin that affects the entire body. It quickly enters the bloodstream and thus circulates throughout the body causing:
- A lower heart rate, slower breathing, passing out
- Headaches and nausea and vomiting as well as a lack of gag reflex – which helps prevent choking
- Loss of balance and poor coordination
- Blurry and/or double vision
- Black outs and memory loss
- Bad breath, excessive sweating and weight gain
For teens drinking can have even greater effects since alcohol needs to time breakdown in the bloodstream. Since they weigh less than full-grown adults and their bodies are still maturing, it takes significantly longer to break down the same amount of alcohol, which increases their risk for alcohol poisoning. Also, it is an extremely serious issue when binge drinking is involved.
There are several signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:
- Breathing problems
- Clammy skin and low body temperature
- Loss of bladder control
All of these can lead to serious health problems, permanent damage, and eventually death if not treated quickly. One of the top reasons underage drinkers don’t call a parent, adult, or even emergency services is the fear of getting in trouble. It’s necessary to talk to kids about alcohol poisoning and helping them to recognize just how dangerous alcohol poisoning is. In addition to encouraging them to regulate their own alcohol consumption, it will give them the knowledge about what to do if a friend is exhibiting alcohol poisoning symptoms. Here are a few things they need to know to do in the middle of that crisis situation:
- If someone blacks out from drinking, get help, regardless of whether that help comes from a trusted adult or emergency services.
- People that are unconscious from excessive drinking should be laid on their side and watched closely.
- Don’t leave someone to sleep it off and don’t splash cold water on him or her. A person with alcohol poisoning could take a turn for the worse very quickly. Don’t wait to get help. Do so immediately.