Alcohol and Teenagers

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey1 found that among high school students, during the past 30 days–

• 29% drank alcohol

• 14% binge drank

• 5% of drivers drove after drinking alcohol

• 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol

What Is Alcohol?

Beverage alcohol is the most popular and most abused psychoactive drug in America.  It is a central nervous system depressant, so when a person first drinks, he/she usually feels uninhibited and relaxed. Later the same person may feel dull, sluggish, clumsy or drowsy. It slows reflexes, impairs memory and judgment. A hangover – when a person feels dizzy, nauseous, thirsty, tired and has a headache – is another common effect.

How Does Alcohol Change You Biologically?

As a depressant, alcohol slows the function of the brain, releases the chemical dopamine, increases the level of opioid peptides, numbs pain, and makes the drinker sleepy. As a person drinks more, the central nervous system slows down dangerously. Over time, alcohol causes neuroadaptation – permanent changes in the brain.

The Alcohol Statistics

• Alcohol kills 141,000 people a year2

• 1-in-10 people have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

• Alcohol use during pregnancy is the most common nonhereditary cause of mental retardation

• Drunken driving accidents kill 10,000-15,000 people every year

• 32% of incarcerated teens were drunk at the time of their crime

Long-term Health Consequences

Drinking can cause fatal damage to the body. Effects include:

• Liver diseases

• Heart disease and stroke

• Brain cell death

• Cancer of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, breast, pancreas, liver, colon, and rectum

• Limited normal growth in young people

• Damage to eyes and skin

• Malnutrition

• Gastric illnesses

• Sexual problems

Legal Consequences Of Drinking

It is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol. Penalties are severe, whether or not accidents occur. If you are under the age of 21, it is illegal to buy, possess or drink alcohol.  Penalties include juvenile detention and probation. Underage drinkers can lose their licenses – even if they were not driving when arrested!

Short-Term Effects of Drinking

• Slow reaction times, poor coordination, heavy sweating

• Blurry or double-vision

• Nausea and vomiting

• Lowered reasoning ability; doing or saying things you otherwise would not

• Lower heart rate

• Slowed breathing

• Anxiety, restlessness

• Mental confusion, memory loss

• Death from respiratory arrest

Signs of Being Drunk

• Slurred, too-loud, or too-fast speech

• Weakened balance

• Loose muscle tone

• Staggering walk or inability to walk

• Glossy appearance in eyes

• Skin cool to the touch, slower pupil response, loss of consciousness

Purposeful Advertising Deception

If advertisements were true, you might think drinking alcohol would be life’s greatest problem solver. NOT TRUE:

• When drinking for joy you may become miserable

• When drinking for sociability you may become argumentative

• When drinking for sophistication you may become obnoxious

• When drinking to sleep you may become exhausted

• When drinking for exhilaration you may become depressed

• When drinking for confidence you may become afraid

• When drinking to diminish your problems you may multiply them

Be Aware

There is a lot of creative energy wasted on the substance that kills more people than all illegal drugs combined. Alcohol is a powerful, addictive drug and it kills. Booze can cause big trouble with family, school, work and the law. Teenagers who drink have lower grades in school, may lose their jobs and can be arrested for purchasing, possessing or drinking alcohol. People who drink are more likely to have sex, get pregnant, and get sexually transmitted diseases. They also frequently become violent and commit crimes.