Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alcohol and Underage Drinking: Get the Facts

Knowledge is Power: The #1 deterrent of substance abuse in teens is PARENTS!

Did you know?
* Adolescents use alcohol more frequently and more heavily than all other substances combined, and alcohol kills more young people than any other drug.
* When youth drink, they tend to drink intensively, often consuming four to five drinks at one time. 75%-90% of all teen drinking is binge drinking, compared to 10-20% of adult drinking.
* Monitoring The Future (MTF) data show that 11% of 8th graders, 22% of 10th graders, and 29% of 12th graders had engaged in heavy episodic—or binge—drinking within the past 2 weeks.
* Parents tend to underestimate underage drinking, particularly their own children’s drinking.9 Teens tend to overestimate dramatically the drinking of their peers. Children and teens also overestimate the amount of alcohol they see their parents drink and its effect on them.
* Every year 1700 college students die from alcohol-related injuries
* 40% of college students binge drink on a regular basis.

Drug type: Depressant, depresses central nervous system, affects motor coordination, reflexes, sensory perceptions and emotions.

Short term effects: Relaxes the drinker; reduces social inhibitions and anxiety in some. Impairs judgment, impulse-control, reaction time, motor coordination; slurs speech. Large amounts result in vomiting, short-term memory loss, alcohol poisoning leading to hangovers, “passing out,” or death. Can produce respiratory depression (to death), sensory depression, confusion, irritability (the violent drunk).

Long term effects: Drinking alcohol in excessive quantities damages nearly every organ and system in the body, especially the central and peripheral nervous systems. Regular, heavy drinking of alcohol increases the risk of developing alcohol dependence or alcoholism, cirrhosis/hepatitis/alcoholic liver disease (the liver detoxifies you body), osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, chronic pancreatitis, oropharyngeal cancer, cancers of the digestive system, liver, breast, ovaries, and pancreatitis. Also with neurologic deficits/brain damage (e.g., impairments of working memory, emotions, executive functions, visual-spatial abilities and gait and balance), dementia and brain shrinkage.

Special effects on adolescents: Alcohol is also especially dangerous for young people. Adolescents are less sensitive to the sedative and motor impairment effects of alcohol, and more sensitive to the social disinhibition induced by alcohol. Teens need more alcohol to feel the impairment. Thus judgment is impaired with less alcohol. Alcohol reduces their ability to register new information into permanent, long-term memory. This particularly affects college work, when you learn throughout the year, and grades are based on one test at the end. Versus high school, where short term memory is more important; frequent testing draws on short-term memory. Recent brain imaging studies in teens and young adults who drank heavily have shown shrinkage in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning. Teenagers who drink to the point of “passing out” are closer to death than adults who do the same. Heavy drinking in adolescents is associated with depressive mood disorders, anxiety, and suicide. Alcohol can also prevent teens from growing to full-size, interfering with muscle and bone growth. In addition, people who drink as teenagers have a greater chance of osteoporosis later in life

Addictive Nature: Can induce psychological and physical dependence. Approximately 10%of the general population becomes alcohol dependent at some point in life. Adolescents who drink before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence; children of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence in response to regular or heavy drinking.

Alcohol/teen marketing: Company advertising sends messages of drinking being cool or sexy; products such as wine coolers, cherry, vanilla, watermelon, other fruit flavored drinks such as alcopops, Smirnoff Ice, Zippers (prepackaged Jello-shots) and Mike’s hard lemonade target teenagers’ sweet-tooth.

Sources:,, www.

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