Alcohol Risks That We
Can't Ignore

What causes ever younger people to ignore alcohol risks and binge drink? How do we solve these problems? How does alcohol affect you? Here's a mix of facts and opinion.

The amount of alcohol you drink has a huge bearing on your health. All your hard work of exercise and a balanced diet, can be undone if you drink too much.

It's a fact many ignore. We all know that drinking large amounts of alcohol, and doing it regularly, isn't good for you. Yet so many people still carry on.

Where Do The Alcohol Risks Begin?

If you drink no more than 2 units a day, you'll give yourself the best chance of avoiding the negative health affects of alcohol (Guidelines for adults only. Teenage drinking is explored further below).

Always keep in mind that most alcohol (e.g. beer, spirits and liquors) contains loads of calories. So even if you stick to 2 units a day, you'll have to account for the extra calories when you exercise.

One unit is approximately the same as:

  • Small glass (90 ml) of wine.
  • Half pint (250 ml bottle) of beer (4% vol).
  • One measure (25 ml) of spirit.
  • Cocktails usually contain at least 2 units (usually more). Drinking more than 4 to 6 units (depending on your body size) in any one day, will seriously increase the negative health affects.

    What Are The Alcohol Risks?

    The risks of drinking too much alcohol are:

  • Gaining weight (fat).
  • Increased blood pressure, which could lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Liver damage (cirrhosis).
  • Cancer of your mouth and throat.
  • Severe depression, which could lead to suicide.
  • Vomiting, which you could choke on.
  • Making bad decisions (e.g. driving or having sex with a stranger).
  • Losing co-ordination, which could result in injury/death when crossing the road or on public transport.
  • Abusive behaviour, to yourself and others around you, sometimes even to your loved ones.

  • Alcohol Risks - Teenage Binge Drinking

    Binge drinking is basically drinking lots of alcohol (5 units or more), in a short amount of time (usually with the aim of getting drunk).

    This isn't actually a new problem. But the age of binge drinkers is now worryingly young. Which has a huge knock-on affect on our daily lives as a community.

    Binge drinking amongst teens has some serious consequences, which I'm not sure they (the teens) realise. Added to the list above, the alcohol risks teenagers have are:

  • Decreased brain development (poor vocabulary and memory), leading to higher chance of dropping out of school.
  • Higher risk of depression, leading to suicide or violence (anti-social behaviour).
  • Slowed or stunted body development.
  • Higher chance of becoming an alcoholic.
  • More chance of having unprotected sex resulting in STD's and/or pregnancy.
  • It doesn't paint a pretty picture for the rest of their lives. And if more teenagers go down this path, it doesn't leave our society with much of a legacy.

    What causes teenagers to binge drink?

    Most of the causes I've read about, focus on things like irresponsible advertising (alco-pops directed at teens), lenient attitude of retailers when checking ID and peer pressure.

    Even though those things have had a part to play, I think the main cause is the breakdown of family communication.

    It seems to be worse amongst poorer families. Parents may work shifts and so spend very little time together as a family. But teenage binge drinking is a problem across all classes and families.

    Changing Attitudes To Alcohol Risks

    What can be done to reduce binge drinking amongst teens? It's a tough question with no solid answer.

    I think there are 2 levels where attitudes need to change:

    Community level
    Whether it be as a country, town or neighbourhood. Communities, media, alcohol producers, politicians and police need to work together. Some ideas are:

  • Exercise, sport and an active lifestyle should be the base. More funding should go towards community sports and activities. In an effort to keep teens off the streets and provide them with something productive to do.
  • Governments should get away from a "nanny state" mentality. More laws will only encourage more breaking of the laws. Funding should go to educating and supporting parents. Projects that encourage a healthy drinking culture, that involves drinking for enjoyment of the flavour, within safe limits.
  • All alcohol producers and distributors need to be (or forced to be) more responsible with their advertising and marketing. Getting away from the current cheap prices and high alcohol volumes.

  • Family Level
    Each individual family needs to take responsibility. Some ideas are:

  • More self-reflection on our own personalities. Do you feel like you need to get drunk to have fun? If so, why? Get to the root of the problem.
  • Parents need to take the mystery out of alcohol for their kids, from a young age. Watered down wine (water with a tea-spoon of wine) with dinner, from age 13 on? Guidelines are currently being drawn as to what age is the best to start this. It will encourage kids to see alcohol as nothing special, and to drink it for it's taste. (Note: Parents with drinking problems should seek further professional advice before doing anything like this).
  • Better family values. Creating close knit family and community bonds. Doing things as a family (e.g. exercising, eating, talking). Let your kids realise they are an integral part of the family. They should feel comfortable talking to you in times of crisis (rather than turning to alcohol).
  • Remember, there is no general answer. Each family situation is different from the next. So there will be different answers for different families.

  • Final Word

    Alcohol risks apply at any age, and at any fitness level. And that's an important point.

    If you focus your efforts on getting fit, knowing that large amounts of alcohol will damage those efforts, I think that'll put you off drinking too much.

    The problem of teenage binge drinking won't go away easily. Schools in the UK have started educating kids on alcohol risks and drinking responsibly.

    Although I think ultimately, it's down to the parents. Your situation as a family is unique. You and only you, have the chance to raise your kids to appreciate alcohol risks and drink responsibly.

    Here's to our legacy, cheers.

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