Health Ed

HEALTH ED: Binge Drinking

  • Whatever – The Science of Teens is a five-part series which explores the sci- ence that drives adolescent behavior. Comes with an information pack and lesson activity ideas (order free via EnhanceTV)! Excellent episodes to use when exploring Binge Drinking = Episode 1 – Risk: Why do they do such reckless things? Sex, drugs and alcohol aren’t the greatest threat to teenagers – it’s their own brain. Episode 2 – Binge: For years we have thought of teen drinking as a rite of passage and harmless fun but new science is showing us the effects of this permanent hangover.
  • www.alcohol.gov.au Information about alcohol-related health issues and Australian Government policy.
  • www.drinkingnightmare.gov.au The Australian Governments National Binge Drinking Campaign (Don’t turn a night out into a Nightmare) launched on 21 November 2008 and ran until 30 June 2010.
  • Four Corners Episode that looks at the ‘Rudd Governments’ attempt to lesson the binge drinking ‘epidemic’ amongst Australian Youth.  Reporter Matthew Carney hangs out in laid-back pubs, crowded clubs and rowdy home parties to gauge the strength of alcohol’s embrace and ask why many people drink to excess.“What’s a wedding without booze? What’s a funeral without booze?” asks a girl at an Anzac Day celebration, as she gets drunk to honour her soldier grandpa. Ties in well to Whatever – Episode 2 and gives students opportunity to discuss if and how the ‘problem’ of binge-drinking can be solved.

We look at Drug Education in Year 10 Health. Its a 12-14 week program that looks at any of the following areas: Types of drugs, short/long term effects of drugs, alcohol and binge drinking, safe partying, drug addiction and rehabilitation, drugs in sport and blood bourne diseases. 

It seems quite a few students, at this age, are attending parties on weekends. According to the gossip in the yard, there can be quite a bit of binge drinking going on at these parties. So I spend three lessons looking at alcohol. We cover things like its effects, standard drinks, alcohol addiction, safe partying, first aid and Government Campaigns aimed at decreasing youth binge drinking rates. We discuss whether they think there is a binge drinking culture in Australian Youth, whether they think this is an issue and why, and what they think can be done to decrease it.

Usually, there is some sort of ‘anti-drinking’ TV advert being aired. A couple of years ago it was the ‘Don’t turn a night out, into a nightmare‘. Now its one aimed at educating the public about ‘Safe Drinking Levels’. None of my students could tell me what the ‘guidelines for alcohol consumption‘ are (ie. no more than two standard drinks on any day).

A good activity to do before discussing the ‘guidelines’, is to get them to consider what they think is risky. The below table is an example. I use the following key:

  • ‘L’ for low risk – Would do this without much thought
  • ‘M’ for Moderate risk – Would consider this, or, do this depending on the situation/environment
  • ‘H’ for high risk – Would not do this, or, people who do this are putting themselves at risk of harm/danger
Allowing a friend to pour your drinks.
Accepting a lift home from an adult driver who has had too much to drink.
Having one drink with dinner whilst out with your family.
Providing unlimited beer and wine at a 21st birthday party.
Drinking alcohol with the purpose of getting blind drunk.
Walking home alone after a party where you have consumed alcohol.
Adding a few extra shots of alcohol to your friends drink without them knowing.

For the ones they rank ‘Low’ – ask them what changes would make it ‘High’ (ie. the environment, mood, number of drinks, social setting etc). And vice versa for the ones they rank as ‘High’.

For example, consider: Having one drink with dinner whilst out with your family. Most students considered this low risk. To make it higher risk they’d up the number of drinks. And they all said a number that was HIGHER than the guidelines (ie. They all said 5+ would be ok). I then changed ‘with parents‘ to ‘with friends‘ and asked what they’d consider ‘High’ risk then. The number of drinks went up past 10, even close to 20 for some students. Is that a little bit scary?

For me, all this discussion about Binge Drinking was a bit of a reminder about how much they DON’T know about alcohol. I forget they either haven’t seen as many ‘health adverts’ on TV as me, or don’t necessarily pay attention to them. A few years ago, almost everyone could tell you what a standard drink is. But since those adverts have been taken of TV a lot of young people don’t know. For people of legal age its written all over posters, coasters and in toilets at any bar you go. But for the underage, weekend party go-er, they don’t see this information so haven’t really thought about it. At the end of the day, they are just there to have a good time.

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