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Column - Teenage binge drinking

Column - Teenage binge drinking

There has been some recent publicity about the impact of local teenagers binge drinking. Over the festive season a number of these young people have committed offences whilst under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

These teenagers are dealt with by Child Youth and Family Service or the Youth Court when under sixteen and by the adult justice system if seventeen or over. Most of these young people are required to attend an alcohol and other drug assessments by one of Bay of Plenty District Health Board's Addiction Counsellors working in the Rewire Youth Team, at Community Alcohol and Drug Service.

On assessment, most of these teenagers are found to be drinking or using other drugs in a harmful and/or dependent manner, but overwhelmingly they believe that they are no different from any other teenager and that their use is normal. Why do they think this?

Some of them are associating only with other people who binge heavily and therefore believe that they are in the 'normal' group of users. Some witness their parents and other adults in their lives binge using. Some just have no idea of what constitutes safe and responsible drinking.

The April school holidays are almost here, and as holidays potentially can be a risky time for increased binge drinking we thought it would be helpful to provide parents with some practical advice (that can be implemented all year round - not just holidays!)

So what can we as responsible adults do?

We believe that one of the best things to do is to make it very clear to your son or daughter how you feel about them drinking and define the consequences if they go outside the boundaries you have set. If you are going to allow them to drink, then how much should they drink and how often?

Do you know what the Upper Responsible Drinking Limits are? These limits are set for adults, as no alcohol is considered the safest option for those who are still growing.

- No more than 4 Standard Drinks for women and 6 for men on any one drinking occasion.

- No more than a total of 14 Standard Drinks for women and 21 for men on any given week.

- Have at least 2 days per week when no alcohol is used.

Ensure that you get up to greet your child when they come home, no matter how late it is, so you can see what condition they are in. A very intoxicated person needs to have someone with them until they regain consciousness as when they are heavily sedated by alcohol or other drugs they can sometimes stop breathing or choke on their own vomit.

You need to sit up with your son or daughter if they come home extremely drunk and you need to wake them every hour to check on their level of consciousness. If they get to a point where you are unable to wake them then they need urgent medical attention, so ring an ambulance. We regularly speak to teenagers who drink alcohol, particularly spirits, at a high enough level to cause alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death.

If you do not allow your teenager to drink or use other drugs they will be less likely to break your rules if they know that you may well check up on them. Check by landline phone that they are at the place they say they are going to be.

Make sure that there will be a responsible adult at any parties they may go to and speak to that adult to check the alcohol status of the party. If you do not want to supply your teenager with alcohol you need to be very consistent with your refusal, even if they ask for 'just a couple of cans'.

Some parents have a rule that they only allow their teens to drink under their supervision. This stays within the spirit of the law but allows the older teen a chance to experience moderate drinking and see it modelled by adults. Remember, it is against the law for anyone other than a parent or legal guardian to supply alcohol to a person under the age of eighteen. Other persons supplying alcohol to people under eighteen years are liable for a fine of up to $2000.

For further advice and information please phone one of our Addiction Counsellors in the Rewire Youth Team at Community Alcohol and Drug Service on 07 579 8391.

Hester Hattingh Clinical Co-ordinator Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS) Bay of Plenty District Health Board


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