Teenager and alcohol

Alcohol (for Teens) - Nemours KidsHealth

Getting the Facts

Just about everyone knows that the legal drinking age throughout the United States is 21. But according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, almost 80% of high school students have tried alcohol.

Deciding whether to drink is a personal decision that we each eventually have to make. This article provides some information on alcohol, including how it affects your body, so you can make an educated choice.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items — everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative.

So if alcohol is a natural product, why do teens need to be concerned about drinking it? When people drink alcohol, it's absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions. Because experts now know that the human brain is still developing during our teens, scientists are researching the effects drinking alcohol can have on the teen brain.

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How Does It Affect the Body?

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.

In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry. Reaction times are slowed dramatically — which is why people are told not to drink and drive. People who are intoxicated may think they're moving properly when they're not. They may act totally out of character.

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result. Alcohol poisoning is exactly what it sounds like — the body has become poisoned by large amounts of alcohol. Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom of alcohol poisoning. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, and even death may result.

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Why Do Teens Drink?

Experimentation with alcohol during the teen years is common. Some reasons that teens use alcohol and other drugs are:

  • curiosity
  • to feel good, reduce stress, and relax
  • to fit in
  • to feel older

From a very young age, kids see advertising messages showing beautiful people enjoying life — and alcohol. And because many parents and other adults use alcohol socially — having beer or wine with dinner, for example — alcohol seems harmless to many teens.

Why Shouldn't I Drink?

Although it's illegal to buy alcohol in the United States until the age of 21, most teens can get access to it. It's therefore up to you to make a decision about drinking. In addition to the possibility of becoming addicted, there are some downsides to drinking:

The punishment is severe. Teens who drink put themselves at risk for obvious problems with the law (it's illegal; you can get arrested). Teens who drink are also more likely to get into fights and commit crimes than those who don't.

People who drink regularly also often have problems with school. Drinking can damage a student's ability to study well and get decent grades, as well as affect sports performance (the coordination thing).

You can look really stupid. The impression is that drinking is cool, but the nervous system changes that come from drinking alcohol can make people do stupid or embarrassing things, like throwing up or peeing on themselves. Drinking also gives people bad breath, and no one enjoys a hangover.

Alcohol puts your health at risk. Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually active and to have unsafe, unprotected sex. Resulting pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases can change — or even end — lives. The risk of injuring yourself, maybe even fatally, is higher when you're under the influence, too. One half of all drowning deaths among teen guys are related to alcohol use. Use of alcohol greatly increases the chance that a teen will be involved in a car crash, homicide, or suicide.

Teen drinkers are more likely to get fat or have health problems, too. One study by the University of Washington found that people who regularly had five or more drinks in a row starting at age 13 were much more likely to be overweight or have high blood pressure by age 24 than their nondrinking peers. People who continue drinking heavily well into adulthood risk damaging their organs, such as the liver, heart, and brain.

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How Can I Avoid Drinking?

If all your friends drink and you don't want to, it can be hard to say "no, thanks." No one wants to risk feeling rejected or left out. Different strategies for turning down alcohol work for different people. Some people find it helps to say no without giving an explanation, others think offering their reasons works better ("I'm not into drinking," "I have a game tomorrow," or "my uncle died from drinking," for example).

If saying no to alcohol makes you feel uncomfortable in front of people you know, blame your parents or another adult for your refusal. Saying, "My parents are coming to pick me up soon," "I already got in major trouble for drinking once, I can't do it again," or "my coach would kill me," can make saying no a bit easier for some.

If you're going to a party and you know there will be alcohol, plan your strategy in advance. You and a friend can develop a signal for when it's time to leave, for example. You can also make sure that you have plans to do something besides just hanging out in someone's basement drinking beer all night. Plan a trip to the movies, the mall, a concert, or a sports event. You might also organize your friends into a volleyball, bowling, or softball team — any activity that gets you moving.

Girls or guys who have strong self-esteem are less likely to become problem drinkers than people with low self-esteem.

Where Can I Get Help?

If you think you have a drinking problem, get help as soon as possible. The best approach is to talk to an adult you trust. If you can't approach your parents, talk to your doctor, school counselor, clergy member, aunt, or uncle. It can be hard for some people to talk to adults about these issues, but a supportive person in a position to help can refer students to a drug and alcohol counselor for evaluation and treatment.

In some states, this treatment is completely confidential. After assessing a teen's problem, a counselor may recommend a brief stay in rehab or outpatient treatment. These treatment centers help a person gradually overcome the physical and psychological dependence on alcohol.

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What If I'm Concerned About Someone Else's Drinking?

Sometimes people live in homes where a parent or other family member drinks too much. This may make you angry, scared, and depressed. Many people can't control their drinking without help. This doesn't mean that they love or care about you any less. Alcoholism is an illness that needs to be treated just like other illnesses.

People with drinking problems can't stop drinking until they are ready to admit they have a problem and get help. This can leave family members and loved ones feeling helpless. The good news is there are many places to turn for help: a supportive adult, such as your guidance counselor, or a relative or older sibling will understand what you're going through. Also, professional organizations like Alateen can help.

If you have a friend whose drinking concerns you, make sure he or she stays safe. Don't let your friend drink and drive, for example. If you can, try to keep friends who have been drinking from doing anything dangerous, such as trying to walk home at night alone or starting a fight. And protect yourself, too. Don't get in a car with someone who's been drinking, even if that person is your ride home. Ask a sober adult to drive you instead or call a cab.

Everyone makes decisions about whether to drink and how much — even adults. It's possible to enjoy a party or other event just as much, if not more so, when you don't drink. And with your central nervous system working as it's supposed to, you'll remember more about the great time you had!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

Date reviewed: September 2016

Underage Drinking | CDC

Underage Drinking is Common

Learn about the Minimum Legal Drinking Age laws

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the U.S.3

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey3,4 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.

Rates of current and binge drinking among high school students have generally been declining in recent decades. Although males historically had higher rates, in 2019, female high school students were more likely to drink alcohol and binge drink than male high school students.4

Underage Drinking is Dangerous

Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience4-7

  • School problems, such as higher rates of absences or lower grades.
  • Social problems, such as fighting or lack of participation in youth activities.
  • Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
  • Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
  • Disruption of normal growth or sexual development.
  • Physical and sexual violence.
  • Increased risk of suicide and homicide.
  • Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, or drowning.
  • Memory problems.
  • Misuse of other substances.
  • Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
  • Alcohol poisoning.

In general, the risk of youth experiencing these problems is greater for those who binge drink than for those who do not binge drink.6,7

Early initiation of drinking is associated with development of an alcohol use disorder later in life. 8

Underage Drinking is Associated with Adult Drinking

Studies show a relationship between underage drinking behaviors and the drinking behaviors of adult relatives, adults in the same household, and adults in the same community and state.

  • There is a relationship between youth and adult drinking, including binge drinking, in states and communities.9-11 A 5% increase in binge drinking among adults in a community is associated with a 12% increase in the chance of underage drinking. 10
  • Among adolescents whose peers drink alcohol, those whose parents binge drink are more likely to drink alcohol than those whose parents do not.12

Underage Drinking is Preventable

State alcohol policy environments influence underage drinking, as well as excessive drinking among adults. Comprehensive approaches that include effective population-level policy strategies can reduce underage drinking.10,13,14 The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends several effective strategies for preventing excessive drinking,15 including:

  • Increasing alcohol taxes.
  • Having commercial host (“dram shop”) liability laws.
  • Regulating the number and concentration of alcohol outlets.
  • Enforcing laws prohibiting alcohol sales to minors.

The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health describes other strategies that can complement effective alcohol policies, such as national media campaigns targeting youth and adults, reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and the development of comprehensive community-based programs. 5Read more about the prevention of excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking.

A teenager and alcohol

The younger generation faces many dangers, and one of them is alcoholic beverages. Even a single use by a teenager can harm a growing body. Unfortunately, there are no tissues in the human body that are not subject to alcohol damage. Once in the body, it is slowly broken down in the liver, and only 10% of the consumed drink is fully excreted. The remaining alcohol circulates through the blood until it is completely broken down. Young tissues are not yet able to block the intake of large doses, which is why the pest quickly spreads throughout the body. The theme of “alcohol and teenagers” is as eternal as “fathers and sons”. Few people understand that its use is not fun. The toxic effect is harmful not only to the liver, but to the entire nervous system. In adolescence, tissues are poorer in the presence of phosphorus, but rich in water, so alcohol dissolves faster in the blood of a child than in an adult.

Devastating effect

Frequent use of alcohol leads to mental disorders, developmental delay is not even the worst option. With every drop, a teenager does not become smarter, but on the contrary, becomes more and more dumb, both emotionally and intellectually. The drink does not choose a target in the human body, it hits the most vulnerable places, among which is the liver. Not everyone knows that the effect of alcohol on a teenager is detrimental, because not only a separate organ suffers, but the whole organism as a whole. The pest breaks the structure of cells, which leads to the degeneration of tissues. With constant alcohol consumption, liver tissue begins to die, leading to diseases such as cirrhosis. Adolescents often do not think when they do certain things, young blood boils in them and feats for them are a common thing

An adult body already knows how to resist large doses, but a young one is not yet aware of this matter. Unfortunately, the effect of alcohol on a growing body is so rapid that it is sometimes difficult to realize that the line of what is permitted has been crossed. In a young body, all organs are just “getting on their feet”, and any alcoholic drink, even the weakest, can knock them down when they grow up. Its impact on the liver can lead to many diseases, as well as problems with the immune system.

Physiological stress. When drinking alcohol, the body of a teenager experiences physiological stress. The character changes, irritability, irascibility appear. The nervous and vascular systems do not keep up with the body, which grows by leaps and bounds. It is hard to imagine, but alcohol creates real chaos in the human body. With its constant use, there are always consequences that can ruin a full-fledged life for a teenager once and for all. Among them, it is worth highlighting: The greatest harm is done to the brain, because until the age of 20 its work is aimed at learning, and it must maintain communication between nerve cells. Drinking alcohol breaks it, which leads to information immunity. The extinction of moral norms, ethical and acquired skills will not lead to good. As terrible as it is to realize, only 2% of drinking teenagers become prosperous individuals. A growing body gets used to alcohol much faster than an adult. Many teenagers drink alcohol and do not even think about the fact that in this way they kill their nervous system. Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages leads to the appearance of mental disorders. In addition to the psyche, the immune system is also disturbed, in connection with which the child often gets sick. Young people do not think about the fact that alcohol can harm their reproductive system. Often, girls who drink alcohol give birth to sick children. As for young men, excessive alcohol intake leads to disruption of the formation of spermatogenesis organs.

Causes of alcoholism in adolescence

Adults often wonder why their children drink alcohol. Even in good families there are guys who are not indifferent to strong drink. Often alcohol and a teenager are inseparable in dysfunctional cells of society. But the love of alcohol can also appear in a decent family, when a child tries a drink for the sake of curiosity. A family holiday or hosting guests can be a motive for getting to know alcohol. Such cases can hardly be called the cause of alcoholism, everything has its beginning.

Alcohol consumption can be caused by social dependence. Teenagers often need the approval of their peers, so they try to imitate some of them by drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. In this scenario, alcohol consumption by teenagers can be one-off, or it can be addictive. Nobody wants to be a black sheep in society, and in order to fit in with society, a teenager has to adapt to the environment, and everyone does it differently. But the main problem of society is the initiation of drinking in the family. Teenagers try to imitate adults by drinking alcohol, they feel a rank higher. In addition, an additional role is played by advertising, which constantly flickers in front of the child’s eyes both at home and on the street.

Motivation to drink

The child's motivation to drink alcohol is divided into groups. In the first, alcohol use by teenagers arouses curiosity. The second group includes factors of psychological motivation, the desire to stand out from the environment and keep up with the older generation. Whatever group a teenager belongs to, he has not yet acquired the necessary skills, so it is quite difficult to keep him from drinking alcohol. Even before tasting alcohol, the child knows that this drink excites the mind. And the thirst to taste it does not fade away. Already after the first taste, many teenagers try to avoid repeated tasting, because not everyone likes the taste of the drink and its hotness

Often the child's brain rejects all kinds of poison that enters the body. But constant holidays create more and more temptation, and not everyone knows how to control their needs. And alcohol use among teenagers is becoming a panacea, and it is already difficult to stop and take a step back. Human weakness is the cause of addiction, at least one of them. But there is another group of motives that is popular among young people when it comes to alcohol. Problems in the family, school, first love, bad life experience - all this can lead to the fact that the child wants to diversify his life and get away from his existing problems. Alcohol dependence can be aggravated by problems in the family or at school. In this case, the teenager chooses to roam the streets and drink drinks, instead of returning to their familiar environment. Today, alcohol and a teenager is not just a phrase, it is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Free time: good or bad? If a teenager has a lot of free time, he tries to spend it for his own benefit. In the absence of a hobby, a child can spend time with friends after school, instead of attending various sections. This pastime leads children to drink alcohol for fun. Thanks to the media, children are aware of the harmful effects of alcohol on a growing body, but this does not prevent them from becoming addicted to one or another strong drink. Unfortunately, alcohol among teenagers appears so quickly that many parents do not have time to catch the moment when their child is addicted to addiction. It is worse when a teenager is not limited only to beer, but each time he improves his skills in tasting stronger drinks. It is difficult to say that parents or society are to blame for everything, because addiction can be caused by any factor, including heredity

Ministry of Health

A blow to the brain.

Contained in alcoholic beverages, ethanol, aka ethyl alcohol, affects on the brain, which in adolescence is at the stage of structural and functional changes, therefore it is especially vulnerable for the influence of chemicals.

results experiments show that even a single and small dose alcohol can disrupt the brain chemistry responsible for learning.

Coming delay in the development of thinking, the development of moral and ethical standards is disrupted, already manifested abilities may fade away.

Under the influence alcohol, a teenager literally becomes dumb: both intellectually and emotionally. And the insufficiently mature brain of a teenager forms an addiction faster from alcohol.

Stab in the stomach.

Liver of a teenager is destroyed under the influence of alcohol much faster than in an adult, because the permeability of the vascular walls in adolescents it is higher, and the mechanisms of the work of enzymes in the liver are still not finalized.

Alcohol leads to fatty degeneration of liver cells and impaired synthesis vitamins, enzymes, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

Observed and malfunctions of the gastrointestinal tract - under the influence of alcohol, the properties and quantity of gastric juice change, the work of the pancreas is disrupted, which can lead not only to to pancreatitis, but also to diabetes.

Even the most light beer is a strong diuretic. And if you use it regularly, minerals and nutrients are washed out of the body, loss which for the growing body of a teenager may be irreplaceable.

And sweet low-alcohol cocktails in jars, very popular among teenagers environment - a real explosive mixture of sugar, dye and alcohol. Which, in addition to the dose of alcohol, it supplies the teenager's body with excess the number of calories. Often these jars also contain caffeine, negatively affecting the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

A blow to the future.

sexy contacts without contraception in the adolescent environment most often occur just in case of alcohol intoxication. Such casual connections can lead to infection with sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B and C, HIV infection.

Often unprotected sex can cause early pregnancy in girls, abortion and subsequent gynecological problems.

Everything else.

Not finished the organism very painfully responds to the incoming ethanol in it. The activity of the cardiovascular system is disturbed: tachycardia, drops in blood pressure appear.

The immune system ceases to fully perform its functions: an alcoholic teenager becomes very receptive to infectious diseases. And not only colds - among drinking young people often have urinary tract infections and kidney and chronic inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract, often aggravated by smoking.

Killers energy.

The youth of today are not limited to alcoholic beverages. Teenagers are increasingly giving preference for energy cocktails, consisting of alcohol and energy drinks. At no one even thinks about the effect that alcohol has on the human body, and also no one thinks about the consequences.

Energy drinks and alcohol have different effects on the body. impact. Alcohol disrupts the objective perception of one's behavior, as well as all surrounding reality. As for energy, it gives a person the illusion of omnipotence. In other words, alcoholic beverages make a person fool, and a cocktail of energy drinks and alcohol turns a person into an enterprising fool.

There have been cases when mixing these two explosive mixtures led to cardiac arrest and death. The point is that the energy and alcohol stimulate the adrenaline system, while aggravating the general problem.

Beer alcoholism in adolescents.

Beer has always been considered a light alcoholic drink, and young people also harmless, however, many who suffer from alcohol dependence began with beer. The systematic use of alcoholic beverages in adolescents causes addiction is 3-4 times faster than in adults and requires more forces for the treatment of alcoholism.

But beer has a powerful diuretic effect, which means merciless destruction of “building materials” from the body - proteins, fats, carbohydrates, especially potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, which is dangerous for a growing person. Teenagers more susceptible to the effects of alcohol in the body, this is manifested in rapid wear of the heart, the kidneys stop removing harmful substances from the body substances, memory fails, liver cells die, it is impossible concentrate attention. Does not bypass alcohol and human personality: the patient becomes cruel, quick-tempered, vindictiveness appears or depression, etc.

Do you think that, unlike vodka, beer almost no harm? But a bottle of beer with a volume of 0.5 l and a strength of 5% is already 50 g of vodka. What can we say about strong beer, in which 9%, and sometimes 12%?!

And not always a person can be sure that the genes are clear of a predisposition to alcoholism. After all, there is every reason consider that such a predisposition has been passed on to the child if the parents alcoholics. If at least the father abuses alcohol, then his son has 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic than his peer from the family, in which parents lead a healthy lifestyle.

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