Before long students at my school will be getting ready for spring break, and soon after, they will attend prom. Since spring is the season for increased celebrations, the use of alcohol by the majority of teens is inevitable. Next month, schools can share important information about alcohol use with teens and parents before the parties begin.  Although you may be tied up with registration, testing, and preparing for your honor’s program, think about taking some time to educate your students and parents.

So, What’s the Problem With Teen Drinking?

The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence reports some pretty interesting facts about teen drinking.  Not a big surprise to school counselors, but alcohol is the number one drug choice by teens out of all drugs. Annually, 5,000 teens die from alcohol related injuries including:  motor vehicle crashes, homicide, and suicides.  In addition, alcohol has a major impact in risky sexual behaviors, unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Alcohol Facts

  • Teens who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to be dependent on alcohol than those who started drinking at the age of 21.  Delaying consumption of alcohol can make a significant impact on alcohol dependence.
  • Out of teens surveyed in 2006, 7.2 million reported binge drinking and 2.4 million reported being heavy drinkers. Binge drinking (National Institute of Alcohol and Addition) is defined by drinking five or more drinks in a two hour period. In the blog post, Kids Don’t Need to Practice Drinking for College, the author tackles the belief by parents that kids have to practice drinking for college.  Binge drinking does not start in college; however, it intensifies when parental boundaries are removed.
  • When teens drink, they tend to consume alcohol more intensely than adults. For example, teens will consume at least four to five drinks at one time (whoa!) compared to adults who tend to consume four to five within 2 hours when binge drinking.
  • Although teen drinking has decreased in recent years, binge drinking has increased among adolescents. In fact, teens are engaging in extreme binging or drinking up to ten or more drinks in a row. 
  •  Alcohol can cause alterations to the brain structure and function which may have effects into adulthood. An ABC News Report on Girl Binge Drinking describes the dangers of binge drinking on the female brain. Researchers found that girls who drink alcohol have more chances of experiencing brain damage than male teens.
  • Students who abuse alcohol have more mental and physical health problems than non-abusing teens.
  • Drinking too fast can cause blackouts.  There are many myths about blackouts among teens that they need to be aware of before they attend parties or celebrations.
  • Alcohol consumption can result in alcohol poisoning which can lead to death.

Extreme Binging

Unfortunately, many teens are going to consume alcohol.  I hate it, but it is a reality.  Drinking alcohol is one thing, but now, teens are taking consumption to a whole new level.  The goal of these binging methods is to get drunk and do it quickly.  Although binge drinking is bad enough, teens are now engaging in extreme binge drinking.  As a school counselor, I may not be able to stop teens from drinking; however, I can educate them on the dangers of binge drinking.

There are lots of ways teens can experience quick intoxication.  Below is a list of some pretty disturbing trends among teens that adults should know:

  • Eyeball shot – According to researchers, this is the most extreme method of intoxication. As the alcohol is poured into the eye, the delicate tissue soaks up the alcohol and causes a quick drunk. 
Eyeball Shot…OUCH!!
  • Snorting – Alcohol snorted through a straw has an intense impact and works so fast that there is an immediate change in behavior (i.e. falling on the floor).

         BBC: Warning Over Vodka Snorting Fad

  • Slimming – Teens who want to avoid the smell of alcohol have begun inserting alcohol soaked tampons in their vaginal or rectal areas. Because the alcohol is inserted into the body, the effects are much faster.
  • Smoking alcohol – This trend uses dry ice, alcohol, and a straw.  The alcohol is poured over the ice and becomes a vapor which is then inhaled through a straw. By inhaling the alcohol, it is absorbed quickly and causing rapid intoxication.
Alcohol Smoking
  • Butt Chugging –  Mimicking the stunt from the MTV show, Jackass, many high school and college students try it this at home and parties.  A funnel is attached to a long plastic tube to control the flow of the beer to the rectum. The danger with funneling alcohol is that the lower intestine does not have an enzyme to break down alcohol so when it reaches the liver it is highly toxic to the body.

          CNN: Alcohol Enemas

  • Pre-drinking – Students will begin drinking at home before going out so that they don’t have to spend as much money getting the intended buzz. Next, the students will buy cheap alcohol and down it quickly before reaching their destination.
  • Rummy bears – Gummy bears or worms are soaked in alcohol overnight infusing the candy with a punch.  Students, as young as middle school, can get intoxicated right under their teachers’ nose.
Gummy bears expand with alcohol
  • Jello shots – Because gelatin masks the smell of alcohol, jello shots have become popular among teens as a way to become intoxicated. 

          Kids Drink in the Darnest Ways…Or Do They?

  • Hand Sanitizer – Since hand sanitizer is 65% alcohol and easily accessible to students, it has become a popular trend among students. Teens drink the sanitizer to get intoxicated.
  • Alcoholic cupcakes – Cupcakes can be infused with vodka or beer.  These desserts are becoming popular in restaurants and give students ideas of how to sneak in alcohol.
  • Alcoholic whipped topping – This sweet treat, known as whipahol, can be purchased for $10 and contains 18% grain alcohol or the equivalent of drinking five drinks.  Since the topping does not taste like alcohol, it can be consumed by a younger audience.

CNN: Alcoholic Whipped Cream Another Binge Drink in a Can
ABC News: 20/20
Smoking Alcohol: The Dangerous Way People are Getting Drunk
Ways to Get Drunk Without Actually Drinking

What are Some Practical Ways to Educate Students?

Again, I have limited influence when teens are already drinking, but I can educate them about the practical dangers of binging and what do when they are faced with a possible situation. Below are some strategies/information you may want to share with your students.

1. How do you know if you are becoming a problem drinker?  Give kids the link to the alcohol self test to find out if they are binge drinkers.

    Alcohol Self Test for Teens – Teens have a question about their consumption?  Have them take this self test to find out if their consumption is abusive.

2. How does alcohol impact the body?  Here is information to show the virtual impacts of alcohol on the body and brain.
          Alcohol and the body – Show teens virtually how alcohol impacts the body and brain.

3. Educate students on a blackout and how they can identify a friend who may be experiencing one at a party or on the beach.

          Blackouts – Dr. Donal Sweeney says that blackouts are unpredictable, can occur in first  
          time drinkers, may last for hours, and takes little alcohol to occur.  In fact, a person
          experiencing an alcoholic blackout may seem normal (walking, talking, or standing).
         The problem, according to Dr. Sweeney, is that alcohol prevents the formation of memories
          and leaves the person “unconscious”. Also, Dr. Sweeney found in his research that females are
          most susceptible to blackouts.

Blackout Quiz

          How do you know if a person is experiencing a blackout?  There is a simple test you can give to
          find out…

  • First, ask the person to tell you three simple words and have him or her repeat them. 
  • Next, distract the person by talking about something else for five minutes. 
  • Last, ask the person the same words again.  If he or she cannot remember, the person may be experiencing a blackout.

4. Share the BAC (Blood Alcohol Calculator) to show them their alcoholic limit.

          Blood Alcohol Calculator – Inform students who their blood alcohol level is determined by
          their physiology and gender.

5. Show students what drinks contain the most and least amount of alcohol.

         Cocktail Calculator – Before consuming a drink, calculate how much alcohol is in that drink.

6. Talk to students about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and what to do if they suspect someone is experiencing it.

        What is alcohol poisoning? Alcohol poisoning occurs when high levels of alcohol suppress the
         respiratory and nervous system so the body tries to rid itself of those toxins.

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Mental confusion, stupor, or coma.
  • Vomiting
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature

If the student suspects someone has alcohol poisoning, he or she should act immediately and not wait until the signs appear.  There are five steps one may follow:
1.  Don’t assume the person is asleep and try to wake him or her up by calling out his/her name, pulling his/her ear or cheek, or pinching the arm.
2.  Turn the person on his/her side to prevent asphyxiation from vomiting.
3.  Check out the skin color and temperature of the person.  If they appear blue, pale,  clammy, or cold, call 911 immediately!!
4.  If the person’s breathing is irregular or slow (less than 10 breaths a minute), call 911!
5.  Even if the person is not showing any distinct signs, don’t guess and call 911.

Source: Blackouts and Alcohol Poisoning

7. Don’t be afraid to call 911!  Although not every state has this law on its books, many states will not arrest underage minors for calling emergency services if they have a friend who is facing a medical emergency.  

States That Allow for Emergency Services to Assist Underage Minors Without Legal Action

8. If a student decides he or she does not want to drink, but will be in a high pressured situation then they to practice refusal. Below are two tools you can use to help students build up their confidence to resist the temptation to drink.

             Build Drink Refusal Skills  – Help students build their ability to refuse alcohol due to peer

Learn How to Say When
Drink Refusal Skill Tool
Script Your No Worksheet

9, Educate yourself as a professional about alcohol so you are up to date on the latest information!

           Power of Drinking Toolkit for Educators

10. Educate your parents about how to help their students celebrate graduation  and summer party safely.

           Power of Youth Toolkit

11. Educate parents and students about the myths of changing the drinking age to 18 in your state.

          Support 21

Feel free to add your ideas about educating teens about alcohol!! 

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