When it comes to underage drinking any amount of alcohol is too much. But a new study shows if teenagers decide to drink, they may be drinking more than you think.
Underage drinking in Oklahoma and across the country is actually on a downward trend, but that doesn't mean when teens are drinking that they're drinking just one.
"We know the earlier teens start to drink they're much more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults," said Stephanie U'Ren. U'Ren works for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Services. Her organization has actually helped bring teen drinking numbers down by almost 10% in the last seven years. But she admits, it's a tough battle to fight.
"When teens drink they tend to drink to excess," said U'Ren. "They're not drinking to relax,
they're drinking to the point of getting drunk."
It's that desire to binge drink that puts teens in danger. When researchers talk about teens
and binge drinking they're usually talking about drinking five or more drinks in one sitting.
But a new study shows some teens are admitting to drinking 15 or more beers in one sitting.
"My first reaction is that's pretty scary," said Sgt. Jason Yingling. "Those are scary numbers."
The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, addresses the trend
of extreme binge drinking. The study found out of 16,000 high school seniors nationwide,
almost 6% said they'd had 15 or more drinks in a row in the past two weeks.
"You have the social risk of sexual assault, violence, and car crashes," said U'Ren. Alcohol
also has a very negative effect on the growing brains of young people.
Sgt. Yingling works to prevent underage drinking for the Oklahoma Sheriff's Department. He believes our state is doing a great job addressing binge drinking with education and law enforcement.
"It's just a big, big, big problem, and it's something that we're going to have to continually
fight and not give up on," he said.
Researchers in this study say prevention efforts need to start focusing on extreme binge drinking. Sgt. Yingling says aside from what his department and others are already doing to address the issue, parents need to have that talk with teens as well.