Binge drinking growing problem among Island teens

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A new 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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