Teenage binge drinking can lead to all types of social problems on top of being damaging to the young person doing it. Teens are far more likely to suffer negative effects due to alcohol abuse, and now there is evidence that this behaviour can lead to depression or anxiety in later life. Binge drinking among teenagers in the UK is increasing at an alarming rate, meaning that this is likely to signify increased rates of mental health problems in the future.
What is Binge Drinking?
Teenagers who use alcohol do not usually engage in this behaviour out of a desire to be sociable – instead the aim is to experience the effects of intoxication. This action of consuming alcohol in an attempt to get high is referred to as binge drinking and it is the most dangerous pattern of drinking that there is because it involves drinking a lot in a short period.
The Link between Teenage Binge Drinking and Depression
A study by Loyola University in 2010 discovered evidence of the link between teenage binge drinking and depression in later life. The study involved adolescent rats that were forced to binge on alcohol. It was found that doing this changed the way the brain worked in these young rats due to alterations in how the stress hormones work. It should be noted that rat studies do not often translate well to humans, but this study does demonstrate a mechanism that would explain why teenagers who drink are more likely to develop depression.
Is Teenage Binge Drinking a Type of Self-Medication?
The idea that teenage drinking leads to depression in later life is certainly compelling, but it is almost certain that in many cases the youngster may have already been predisposed to this type of condition. Symptoms of depression can occur during the teenage years, but they can be so mild that the person does not realise that he or she is dealing with a mental health problem. The person then tries alcohol for the first time, realising that it makes them feel better, which in turn makes the idea of binge drinking an attractive proposition. The person is actually self-medicating without even realising that this is what he or she is doing. The problem is that alcohol is a terrible remedy for depression because it is actually a type of depressant.
The Dangers of Depression in Later Life
The recent death of Robin Williams has highlighted the dangers of depression in life. It can make things so unbearable that the person feels unable to continue – depressed people do not commit suicide because they reject life but because it is too painful for them to be alive. Depression is a horrible condition that makes life unbearable, and it may be a heavy price to pay for teenage binge drinking. Of course, there are now effective treatments for dealing with depression, but it is much better if the person never needs to face it in the first place.
What Can Parents Do to Discourage Underage Drinking?
- Talk to kids about the dangers of drinking and how this could have a hugely negative impact on their future.
- Develop the type of relationship with your child where he or she feels able to discuss things like the desire to experiment with alcohol.
- Be on the lookout for signs of alcohol abuse including unexplained illness in the morning, alcohol going missing in the house, mood changes, and secretive behaviour.
- Only drink sensibly in front of your children – a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ approach is completely ineffective.
- Get involved in your child’s life.
- Help your child find fun things to do that do not involve alcohol.