It’s nothing new that teenagers are prone to experimentation with drugs and alcohol. And kids today start early – according to a recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recently reported that 51.7% of all eighth graders have tried alcohol and 15.2% percent have engaged in a binge drinking episode in the past year. And the numbers only climb as students move up through school, with 80% of 12th graders reporting that they have tried alcohol and a startling 30.8% stating that they have binge drank in the past two weeks.
As if these statistics weren’t alarming enough, in recent years, the number of teenage girls engaging in alcohol abuse has steadily climbed to frightening levels, with ABC News recently estimating that one out of every four adolescent females binge drinks.* A recent survey by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America revealed that 70% of girls use alcohol to help them cope better with problems they are having with friends and family. Many of these girls also stated that they drink to help themselves fit in better with their peers, and a recent study by Pediatrics reported strong links between the glamorization of alcohol in movies like The Hangover and binge drinking among teens, in general.
A few other important facts about alcohol abuse among teenage girls:
- Teenage girls who drink are more at risk to engage in risky sexual behavior and have more sexual partners than those who do not, resulting in higher percentages of unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Girls who binge drink are three percent more likely to get into physical fights than those who don’t and are more susceptible to other acts of violence, such as dating violence and rape.
- Alcohol is estimated to be involved in eight percent of all teenage girls’ suicides and female binge drinkers are six times more likely than non-drinkers to make a suicide attempt.
- Factors indicative of a girl’s likelihood to engage in alcohol abuse as a teenager include early puberty, family history of substance abuse, inadequate parent-child communication, depression and/or anxiety, academic problems, and a history of physical and/or sexual abuse.
So, what can parents do to curb binge drinking among their teenage daughters? It’s important for parents to stay in-tune with their children’s lives as much as possible, understand who they are hanging out with and what’s going on with them at school. Studies have also shown that girls who have strong female role models are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs. Red flags include when a child suddenly starts missing or failing at school, ditches old friends for a new “crowd,” drops extra curricular activities, becomes increasingly secretive about her whereabouts or how she’s spending her time, and has a drastic change in her mood or demeanor.
*Defined as five or more drinks for a female.