Alcohol & Teen Health

As a teenager, you may have heard your friends talk about drinking or you think you will have more fun, and fit in, if you drink. It’s important to understand how alcohol can affect you and your body so that you can make the smart decision to NOT drink. Most importantly, drinking alcohol under the age of 21 in the state of Maryland is against the law.

Think You Know What Alcohol Is? Here's the Facts

There are three major types of alcohol:

  • Beer: It’s prepared by brewing and fermenting grains, then flavouring the mixture with hops, a flower that gives beer its bitterness. The alcohol content of beer usually ranges from 4% to 6% alcohol by volume.
  • Wine: It’s made using fermented fruits (usually grapes). Wine is completely fermented and has a long ageing process, which leads it to having an alcohol content of around 9% to 16%.
  • Spirits: A product of both fermentation and distillation. Spirits are stronger alcohols and can have an alcohol content of above 20%

What Equals One Drink?

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?

Many people think that alcohol is a ‘stimulant’ as it can give people feelings of confidence and fearlessness. However, alcohol is actually classified as a ‘depressant drug’, which basically means that it slows down the actions of the central nervous system in your body.  If you feel confident or fearless when you drink alcohol, it’s because the alcohol impacts on your brain’s ‘warning system’ which helps to monitor your behaviour.

Alcohol’s classification as a depressant has a lot to do with how your body reacts to the drug. One effect of alcohol is that it lowers your heart and breathing rates. It also slows down the time it takes for a person to respond to things, which often results in being uncoordinated, having slower reflexes and making poor decisions.

People who drink are affected even before they show signs of being drunk, especially when it comes to decision-making abilities. At first, alcohol causes people to feel upbeat and excited, but this is temporary and you shouldn’t be fooled. If drinking continues, the effects on the body – and the potential risks – multiply.

Consequences of Alcohol

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), here are the negative consequences of underage drinking:

  • Inhibitions and memory: People may say and do things that they will regret later, or possibly not remember at all. Inhibitions are lost – leading to poor decision making and consequences.

 

  • Impaired Judgment: When people drink alcohol, you are more likely to be impulsive. Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including:
    • Drinking and driving
    • Sexual activity (such as unprotected sex)
    • Aggressive or violent behavior (getting into fights, use of profanity. etc.)

 

  • Injuries: When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.
    • Drinking alcohol can cause you to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.  

 

  • Death: Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to death. If people drink too much, they will eventually get sleepy and pass out. Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means they could vomit and choke, or stop breathing completely. Too much alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning which can also lead to death!!!
    • On average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year. This includes:
      • 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
      • 1,269 from homicides
      • 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning; and
      • 492 from suicides

As noted in Alcohol Use and Abuse, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications, teenage girls experiment with alcohol for many of the same reasons that boys do, but they face some challenges boys don’t:

  • Among teenage heavy drinkers (those having five or more drinks in a row at least five times in one month), girls are more likely to say that they drink to escape problems or to cope with frustration or anger.
  • Girls are more likely to drink because of family problems than because of peer pressure.
  • Drinking can delay puberty in girls, while abusing alcohol can cause endocrine disorders during puberty.
  • Teenage girls who drink are more likely to have unprotected sex than girls who don’t drink, putting them at increased risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.  

Make The Pledge!

Take a stand to make West Baltimore a drug-free community, one youth at a time!