Alcohol – the easiest drug for our kids to obtain. Friends, older brothers and sisters, and – unfortunately – some parents will buy it for their teens. After all, “it’s a right of passage” … “I drank, and I’m okay” … “my parents served it to us”.
But here are the facts: the earlier a child starts to drink, the more likely that heavy alcohol use will stay with him or her for the rest of their lives. The younger a child is when they take their first drink, the higher the chance that they will become an alcoholic.
- If your child begins drinking before the age of 15, they have a 40% chance of becoming an alcoholic.
- If they start before 17, the chances drop to 24.5%.
- And if they wait until they’re 21, the legal drinking age, the chances drop to 10%.
Add to that these facts: alcohol and other drug use can impair judgment, which can result in inappropriate sexual behavior, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), injuries and car crashes. Habitual use can lead to an inability to control drinking, blackouts and memory loss, cirrhosis of the liver, vitamin deficiencies, damage to heart and central nervous system, weight gain, sexual impotence, and may also interfere with personal relationships.
The Legal Drinking Age is 21: Why That’s a Good Idea According to the American Medical Association
- Adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-drinkers on vocabulary, general information, memory, memory retrieval and at least three other tests
- Verbal and nonverbal information recall was most heavily affected, with a 10 percent performance decrease in alcohol drinkers
- Adolescent drinkers perform worse in school, are more likely to fall behind and have an increased risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence
- Alcohol affects the sleep cycle, resulting in impaired learning and memory as well as disrupted release of hormones necessary for growth and maturation
- Alcohol use increases risk of stroke among young drinkers
Myths vs. Facts
Myth: Alcohol isn’t as harmful as other drugs.
Fact: Alcohol increases your risk for many deadly diseases, such as cancer. Drinking too much alcohol too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can kill you.
Myth: Drinking is a good way to loosen up at parties.
Fact: Drinking is a dumb way to loosen up. It can make you act silly, say things you shouldn’t say, and do things you wouldn’t normally do (like get into fights or have sex).
Myth: Drinking alcohol will make me cool.
Fact: There’s nothing cook about stumbling around, passing out, or puking on yourself. Drinking alcohol also can cause bad breath and weight gain.
Myth: All of the other kids drink alcohol. I need to drink to fit in.
Fact: If you really want to fit in, stay sober. Most young people don’t drink alcohol. Research shows that more than 73 percent of youth aged 12 to 20 haven’t had a drink in the past month.
Myth: I can sober up quickly by taking a cold shower or drinking coffee.
Fact: On average, it takes 2 to 3 hours for a single drink to leave the body. Nothing can speed up the process, including drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, or “walking it off”.
Myth: Adults drink, so kids should be able to drink too.
Fact: A young person’s brain and body are still growing. Drinking alcohol can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. People who being drinking by age 15 are five times more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who being drinking after age 20.
Myth: Beer and wine are safer than liquor.
Fact: Alcohol is alcohol…it can cause you problems no matter how you consume it. One 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 5-ounce glass of wine (about a half-cup) has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. Alco-pops –sweet drinks laced with malt liquor — often contain more alcohol than beer!
Myth: I can drink alcohol and not have any problems.
Fact: If you’re under 21, drinking alcohol is a big problem: It’s illegal. If caught, you may have to pay a fine, perform community service, or take alcohol awareness classes. Kids who drink also are more likely to get poor grades in school, and are at higher risk for being a crime victim.
Alcohol poisoning is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. A little responsibility can potentially save the life of someone you love.
When you’re headed out the door to enjoy a night of fun, chances are the last thing on your mind is that you and your friends may be headed for danger. Alcohol poisoning leads to thousands of deaths each year. Even worse, a large percentage of those deaths occur simply because friends and/or family did not recognize the symptoms and get help.
What do I do if my friend is drunk?
- Make sure he or she stays safe.
- Don’t let your friend drink and drive. Call a sober adult or a cab to drive them home.
- Keep them from doing anything dangerous, like trying to walk home alone at night or starting a fight.
Protect yourself too!
- Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking, even if that person is your ride home. Ask a sober adult to drive you home instead, or call a cab.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
While it may seem funny at the time, a person who has passed out from drinking too much alcohol is now in a dangerous position. Alcohol is an irritant to the stomach and often causes severe vomiting. The nerves that control actions such as breathing and the gag reflex can be severely depressed. This can result in the person choking to death on his/her vomit. Contrary to popular belief, a person who has passed out from too much alcohol is not “sleeping it off” — blood alcohol concentration can rise whether they are conscious or not.
- Irregular breathing
- Severe mental confusion
- Cannot be woken up
- Heavy vomiting
- Unusually low body temperature
- Extremely pale/bluish skin color
What can happen to your friend if they are left to “sleep it off”?
Permanent brain damage, from seizures, and DEATH.
What to do if you suspect alcohol poisoning?
Call 911 emergency services and wait for help to arrive.