Binge drink­ing grow­ing prob­lem among Is­land teens

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Anew report says al­co­hol is the most preva­lent drug among stu­dents in this prov­ince. The Prince Ed­ward Is­land Stu­dent Drug Use Report re­leased last week by the pro­vin­cial govern­ment re­veals that al­co­hol has been the pre­dom­i­nant drug of choice for P.E.I. teens over the last nine years and con­tin­ues to be the No. 1 drug used by youth in the prov­ince.

The re­sults, which are likely to sur­prise some par­ents while con­firm­ing the worst sus­pi­cions of oth­ers, were de­rived from the Youth Smok­ing Sur­vey, a Health Canada spon­sored class­room sur­vey com­pleted by stu­dents in grades 6-12.

The most re­cent re­sults from 2012-2013 show 39 per cent of stu­dents from grades 7-12 re­ported con­sum­ing al­co­hol in the last 12 months, and of those who did some 81 per cent said they en­gaged in binge drink­ing.

The report notes P.E.I. stu­dents have a cul­ture of binge drink­ing that ap­pears to be­gin when they reach Grade 9.

While many par­ents are aware that their teens have con­sumed al­co­hol the dis­cov­ery that their con­sump­tion of al­co­hol has es­ca­lated from shar­ing a cou­ple of beers with a friend or an older brother to see what it tastes like to binge drink­ing is a sober­ing thought, no pun in­tended.

Some may ask at this point how binge drink­ing is de­fined.

There is no univer­sally ac­cepted def­i­ni­tion of binge drink­ing but the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health de­fines it as con­sum­ing five or more drinks on one oc­ca­sion.

It is some­times de­fined as a pat­tern of heavy episodic drink­ing char­ac­ter­ized by drink­ing for the sole pur­pose of be­com­ing in­tox­i­cated.

Re­gard­less of how you de­fine it, binge drink­ing by teens, par­tic­u­larly those at the ju­nior high lev­els, is cause for con­cern and mer­its se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion in the com­mu­nity.

It is not just a prob­lem for the teen who binge drinks and passes out, it is a prob­lem for the whole com­mu­nity.

It is a prob­lem for the whole com­mu­nity be­cause of the prob­lems which may fol­low.

Ex­ces­sive con­sump­tion of al­co­hol can lead to a num­ber of neg­a­tive so­cial and health ef­fects in­clud­ing an in­creased risk for in­juries and chronic health prob­lems down the road.

Robert Mann, who re­searches al­co­hol and drug prob­lems and the fac­tors that in­crease and de­crease them at the Cen­tre for Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health in Toronto was quoted in a 2014 story by the CBC as say­ing that binge drink­ing in youth is a very sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic health is­sue that de­serves at­ten­tion.

He noted at that time that al­co­hol was the num­ber one contributing cause of death among Canada’s youth.

That the is­sue of al­co­hol con­sump­tion among Is­land youth de­serves more study is a no brainer.

But per­haps the more im­me­di­ate ques­tion is what can be done to keep al­co­hol out of the hands of teens.

Esme Fuller-Thom­son, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Toronto’s Fac­tor-In­wen­tash Fac­ulty of So­cial Work, has called for more en­force­ment of the laws that deal with pro­vid­ing mi­nors with al­co­hol.

She also called for in­creased aware­ness of the se­ri­ous­ness of this is­sue.

The at­ti­tude that this is sim­ply a case of ‘ kids will be kids,’ doesn’t fly be­cause fail­ure to ad­dress the is­sue has se­ri­ous con­se­quences.

The next time you’re go­ing into the liquor store and a bunch of clearly un­der­age kids asks you to buy al­co­hol for them say no.

If your 14- or 15-year-old son or daugh­ter was ask­ing another grown-up to buy them al­co­hol what you would want that grown-up to say?

And we have to stop mak­ing the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol look like some­thing they just have to do if they want to be ac­cepted by their peers.

There ap­pears to be more ads on tele­vi­sion now for al­co­hol than ever be­fore.

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