Teen Health on Alcohol

By: Bryn Fitchett

THE DEADLY DRUG: ALCOHOL

Mostly everyone knows that the legal age to drink in the United States is 21 years old. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, however, almost 80% of high school students have tried alcohol. Drinking alcohol is a personal choice that can impact your future greatly. This article includes information regarding alcohol and how it affects the body.
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WHAT IS ALCOHOL?

Alcohol is a substance that is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. This process is called, "Fermentation". Fermentation uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Alcohol has many different forms. For example, alcohol can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative. When people drink alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed into that person's bloodstream. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, it affects the central nervous system, which is highly dangerous. Drinking alcohol can specifically affect the brain of a teen, which can lead to later problems in their life.

TYPES OF ALCOHOLIC DRINKS

HOW DOES ALCOHOL AFFECT THE BODY?

Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means that it slows down the functions of the central nervous system. Alcohol can block some of the messages to the brain, which interferes with the way the body works. Therefore, a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing can be massively affected.
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CONSUMING SMALL AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL

Small amounts of alcohol can help a person relax or become less anxious.

CONSUMING LARGE AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL

Larger amounts of alcohol can cause changes in the brain, which can cause intoxication. People who abuse alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and begin to slur their speech. People who drink too much alcohol will most likely become confused and disoriented. When a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short period of time, this can result in alcohol poisoning. One of the first symptoms of alcohol poisoning is vomiting violently. Alcohol poisoning can sometimes even lead to death.

WHY DO TEENS DRINK?

During the teen years, it is very common for experimentation with alcohol to occur. Teens use alcohol for several different reasons. These reasons would include: curiosity, to feel good, reduce stress, relax, to fit in, or to feel older. Some adults use alcohol as a social aspect of their life such as having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner. This makes teens and younger people feel that alcohol is harmless and that they can drink too.

"Alcohol is not the answer, it just makes you forget the question." -Anonymous

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WHY SHOULDN'T I DRINK?

Many teens think that drinking is "cool" or will help them "fit in". However, there is NOTHING "cool" about alcohol. Teens who drink put themselves at risk for problems later in life such as committing crimes or struggling in school. Drinking can hurt a student's ability to earn successful grades. By using alcohol, teens can do embarrassing things such as, throwing up or peeing themselves. Teens can become more at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease that can impact their lives. Alcohol also increases one's risk for becoming injured. For example, one half of all drowning deaths among teens guys are related to the use of alcohol. Alcohol can influence teens to become involved in car crashes, homicide, or even suicide. People who drink heavily will damage their organs.

HOW CAN I AVOID DRINKING?

If your friends ask you to drink alcohol with them, just make a simple excuse like "no, thanks" or "my coach said I can't drink because we have a big game tomorrow". If you feel uncomfortable or awkward turning down alcohol in front of your friends, then just blame your parent by saying, "My parents are taking me to dinner shortly". If you are going to be attending a party where you know that alcohol will be present, make the decision to leave that party early. Surround yourself by positive people who have a high self-esteem because it will put you at a decreased risk for drinking.
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WHERE CAN I GET HELP?

There are many ways to get help with an alcohol related issue. The best way is to talk to a trusted adult or guardian. You can also speak with your guidance counselor, doctor, or another family member. Rehab is also an efficient way to seek help.