WHAT WE KNOW
Alcohol affects your body and brain. It can impair your judgment.
- According to a report from the American Medical Association, your teenage brain is going through enormous changes and alcohol can seriously damage long- and short-term growth processes. “Damage from alcohol at this time can be long-term and irreversible. In addition, short-term or moderate drinking impairs learning and memory far more in youth than adults. Adolescents need only drink half as much to suffer the same negative effects.”1
- Alcohol is carried via the bloodstream throughout your body, is absorbed very quickly (as quickly as 5-10 minutes), and can stay in the body for several hours.
- Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It can increase your risk for disease, including cancer.
- Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.
- Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, including having unprotected sex, which may expose you to HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, or unwanted pregnancy.
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death.
- Alcoholic drinks are empty calories that have no nutritional value. The average 12-ounce bottle of beer has 151 calories but zero nutrients. A low-calorie beer has 110 empty calories.
- While alcohol can make you feel relaxed, uninhibited, and buzzed, when it leaves your system, you feel sleepy – which can lead you to drink more to maintain the buzz.
Drinking alcohol can have enormous negative consequences.
- One drink can make you fail a breath test.
- Drinking can result in not getting your driver's license on time or having your license taken away.
- You can lose your job.
- You can lose your college scholarship or even your invitation of admission.
- You can receive a hefty fine or have your car taken away permanently.
You don’t have to be the one who’s drinking to get hurt.
Just hanging out with people who are drinking leads to increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in a car crash, or affected by violence. At a minimum, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.
Women are affected more by alcohol than men are because women have less water in their bodies (water dilutes alcohol) and more adipose tissue (fat), which is not easily penetrated by alcohol, keeping the alcohol in the bloodstream.
- A woman’s menstrual cycle will affect her rate of alcohol absorption. Women will experience the highest rate of blood alcohol concentration when premenstrual.
- Body weight affects how a person reacts to alcohol. Heavier people are less affected by alcohol because they have more blood and water in their bodies to dilute the alcohol. Women generally weigh less than men do.
- Women have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (AHD, the enzyme responsible for beginning alcohol metabolism) in their stomachs, which results in alcohol staying in their systems longer.
- Women are more likely to become addicted or to have liver damage sooner than men are, even if women drink less alcohol or drink for a shorter period of time than men do.
- Women are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure at even moderate levels of drinking.
- The average age of a child’s first drink is 12.
- Nearly 20% of young people between the ages of 12 and 20 are “binge drinkers.”*
- Although young people are less likely than adults to drive after drinking, their risk of a crash is substantially higher when they do drive. It's true even for low and moderate blood alcohol concentrations, possibly because many teens are inexperienced drivers.
- One fourth of 16- to 20-year-old drivers who were fatally injured in crashes had high blood alcohol concentrations.
- Among younger teens, there is no gender gap in drinking: male and female ninth graders are just as likely to drink (40% versus 41%) and to binge drink (22% versus 20%).
- Individuals who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol than are those who begin drinking at age 21.
- The prevalence of lifetime alcohol abuse is greatest for those who begin drinking at age 14.
- One third of sixth and ninth graders obtain alcohol from their own homes.
- Children cite other people’s homes as the most common setting
- Four out of every five students have consumed alcohol (more than a few sips) by the end of high school.
- Two thirds of twelfth graders report having been drunk.
* A Note on Terminology
Binge drinking – People in the substance abuse prevention field disagree about whether to use “binge drinking” or another term such as “high-risk drinking.” People who support use of a definition of binge drinking (four drinks in a row for women and five for men) argue that a specific amount is necessary to measure the phenomenon of heavy, sustained, problem drinking. Those concerned about the use of the term binge drinking say that this definition is not consistent with the common understanding of a binge or a “bender” that may last days. They also say that setting a specific number of drinks does not take into account the drinker’s body mass and the time period over which the drinks are consumed. These are important points, but because use of the term binge drinking has become so common in discussions of teen and college drinking, we have continued to use it. Students should recognize that binge drinking” or high-risk drinking or “drinking to intoxication” are all labels for a pattern of heavy, sustained drinking that is extremely dangerous.
1 American Medical Association. “Fact Sheet: Effects of Alcohol on Brains of Adolescents.” www.amaassn.org/ama/pub/category/9146.html
Click here to view recent statistics on special occasions and driving under the influence -- information resulting from a recent SADD/Liberty Mutual Teen Driving Study.
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