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Binge Drinking

Live it up without drinking up

Many of us probably hit the clubs every weekend or fortnight to chill out with our best buds. After rounds of stiff drinks, grooving on the dance floor, the booze keeps piling up, everyone gets rowdier, and the night usually ends with one or two embarrassing ‘merlions’.

That’s when one starts thinking, “I should have gone slower with the last two.” A week or two passes, and the cycle begins again with the search for a big night-out on a high note but, inevitably, ends on a much lower one.

The untold story

The latest statistics from the 2010 National Health Survey show that within the 18 to 29 age group, binge drinking prevalence has increased from 14.1 to 15.5%. Studies have shown that compared to non-drinkers, adolescent binge drinkers (defined as the consumption of five or more drinks in a single drinking session for men and four or more drinks for women), did worse on thinking and memory tests, and scored poorly on tests of attention.

In addition, young people are more vulnerable to the effects of binge drinking as their brains are still developing and do not fully mature until the middle to late 20s. When alcohol is in the body, it can also trigger the production of a substance toxic to testosterones, a hormone involved in the development and recovery of muscles. Short-term consequences include acute intoxication, nausea and vomiting, blurred or double vision as well as impaired judgement. While the long-term consequences range from alcohol dependence to liver diseases.

The Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) campaign, ‘Live It Up Without Drinking Up’, encapsulates the message that youths and young adults can have fun without binge drinking/drinking alcohol.

Ms Prema V, Deputy Director of the Youth Health Division at HPB, shared, “Our objectives are to raise the awareness of the negative implications from alcohol misuse and binge drinking, and also to highlight ways young people can enjoy themselves more by drinking responsibly (which includes not drinking at all in certain situations) and by living it up with other alternative social activities. However, the ultimate decision still lies on the individual as to whether or not they want to lead a healthy lifestyle or not.”

Why go binge drinking?

Ms Yeo Li Fern a counsellor at NAMS expressed, “There are many reasons for young adults to engage in binge drinking. They often resort to using alcohol as a form of relaxant when meeting new people at social functions. Consuming alcohol helps to boost their confidence to socialise and mingle with other young people without feeling inhibited.

Sometimes, young adults binge drink because they want to be part of a social group that they want to be identify with. “Peer pressure will always be an issue of adolescent development − group culture will remain a growing up problem that adolescent have to wrestle with.” Another cause for binge drinking among young adults is because the white brain matter is not fully developed at this age which compromises their consequential thinking.

Many of their decisions are impulse-driven and that is the reason why young adults are more susceptible to high-risk behaviours such as teen sex and drug use, or even engaging in extreme sports activities. Another physical factor is being young. These people do not get intoxicated as quickly as adults. Thus, they are able to consume more alcohol in one evening as compared to adults.”

Please visit bit.ly/rk6PdG for more information about the adverse effects of alcohol drinking and tips how to be in control of your own drinking at social gatherings.

The story of Nick

Nick, 19, is a polytechnic graduate diagnosed with alcohol dependence. He started binge drinking at 17, when he worked part-time at an events company. He also worked as a part-time DJ during the weekends.  He would hang out with his colleagues after work and drink to the point of intoxication. Subsequently, he experienced several blackout episodes, and his drinking increased to include weekdays as well.

By the time Nick visited National Addictions Management Service (NAMS), he had developed tolerance (taking in more alcohol to feel the same high) and had withdrawal symptoms (such as restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and slight hand tremors). At that point, he was not keen to stop drinking completely as he felt that he was not addicted to alcohol. Furthermore, he revealed that he would at times drink with his father at home.

He started individual counselling sessions at NAMS, and his family was also engaged in family therapy. He began to realise that he was alcohol dependent, and he mentioned that he did not want to end up as an alcoholic, like his father.

His counsellor then worked with him to set several treatment goals such as brainstorming on ways he could still spin good music and not feel out of place while he is working, and resuming activities he used to enjoy before he started his drinking.

A couple of months later, Nick stopped drinking completely, while continuing to spin good music. He also started engaging in healthy activities, like playing street soccer. He is currently doing well, and has enlisted in the army. To date, he has not gone back to alcohol.

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Ms Flora Yeo is a well-established ambassador of the Youth Advolution for Health (YAH) programme. YAH is designed to encourage and empower youths to serve as advocates for a healthy lifestyle among their peers, and inspire creative methods of promoting health.
Posted by ezyhealth on Dec 19 2011. Filed under Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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