The Dangers of Teenage Drinking

How Booze Affects Your Brain and Your Body

teenagers drinking alcohol
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Many people start drinking alcohol in their teens. To some, it's a rite of passage into adulthood, but it also carries health risks. Alcohol is a social lubricant, but it's also a toxin that the body works hard to expel. Here are some of the dangers of teenage drinking.

A Dangerous Buzz

Alcohol-related incidents are responsible for the deaths of more male teenagers and young men than any incidents related to other drugs taken to affect mood and behavior, including heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

Most alcohol-related deaths and injury are caused by the way people behave when under its influence. Young men tend to fight more, drive more recklessly, and engage in more risky behaviors while under the influence. In fact, alcohol use is a leading risk factor for the three leading causes of death among youth:

  1. Unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes and drownings
  2. Suicides
  3. Homicides

Alcohol also lowers your defenses, increasing your chances of engaging in risky sexual behavior that could result in a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy.

How Alcohol Harms Young Bodies

In large quantities, alcohol is a toxin that should be used with care even among adults who are of legal drinking age. While it can be harmful to anyone if abused, excessive alcohol consumption can have especially dire consequences for young people. These include liver damage, hypothermia in the event of passing out in the cold, choking on vomit, labored breathing or a stop in breathing, irregular heart beat, among others.

Know Your Limits

Your body changes a lot as you grow, especially during your teenage years. That can make it hard to know your limits, as your ability to judge and handle alcohol changes all the time. While you may have that one friend who can down beers by the dozen, that's not something to aspire towards.

One of the dangers of drinking is not recognizing when you have had too much. Different drinks have varying alcohol content and the body reacts differently to alcohol according to whether or not you have eaten, how thirsty you are and even the time of day. The level of alcohol in your blood can continue increasing even after you stop drinking.

No amount of coffee, cold showers, or trying to walk it off will help once you've consumed the alcohol. Eating a large meal before drinking only slows the process. The only thing that reverses the effect of alcohol is time. 

Be a Good Friend

If you choose to drink alcohol as a teen, it's important not to go overboard and to help your friends stay safe. If someone at the party is becoming unconscious and also has shallow breathing and/or is looking blue, has a slow heart beat and maybe starts to vomit, call 911 right away. It is better to be safe and face the consequences than to lose a friend.

Sources

"Alcohol and Public Health." National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 31 Jan 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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