Binge drinking is not just about the number of drinks you have – it’s about drinking with the specific intention of ‘getting drunk’.
Binge drinking receives a great deal of media attention and can lead to shaping teens’ beliefs that this is the norm. There’s no denying that there are many young people who drink in risky ways, but there are many teenagers who are trying their best to keep themselves and their friends as safe as possible.
Australian research shows that in 2013 around 72% of 12-17 year olds reported abstaining from alcohol. The average age of initiation (i.e. the first time they consumed alcohol) has increased from 14.4 years in 1998 to 15.7 years in 2013.
However, of those 12-17 year olds who had consumed alcohol, around 15% of males and 11% of females drank in a risky way (more than four drinks).
That means there’s only a minority of kids who are binge drinking – but they’re still obvious and influential. So it’s important that parents recognise their influence as role models on their teens.
Some young people ‘preload’ to save money – quickly drinking large amounts of alcohol at home before heading out. Often they’re already intoxicated before they walk out the front door. By the time they get to where they’re going their judgement is clouded, causing them to continue drinking more than they intended to – which is dangerous, and means they don’t save money at all.
If your teen really believes getting drunk every weekend is normal, there could be other factors at play. Perhaps there are other influences in their lives (peers, older siblings, relatives) or problems that you’re unaware of. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.
You can also seek professional help from a GP or get a referral for a health professional with expertise in the area.