Alcohol affects your brain. Drinking alcohol leads to a
loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted
vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.
Alcohol affects your body. Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.
Alcohol affects your self-control. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, including having unprotected sex. This may expose you to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases or cause unwanted pregnancy.
Alcohol can kill you. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death. Also, in 2004, 36 percent of traffic deaths of 16- to 20-year-olds were alcohol-related. That equates to the deaths of 2,115 people in this age group alone. 1
Alcohol can hurt you--even if you're not the one drinking. If you're around people who are drinking, you have an increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in car crashes, or affected by violence. At the very least, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.
Before You Risk It
Know the law. It is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under 21.
Get the facts. One drink can make you fail a breath test. In some states, people under the age of 21 who are found to have any amount of alcohol in their systems can lose their driver's license, be subject to a heavy fine, or have their car permanently taken away.
Stay informed. All drinking is harmful for teens because their brains are still developing throughout adolescence and well into young adulthood. Drinking during this critical developmental period can lead to lifelong impairments in brain function, particularly as it relates to memory, motor skills, and coordination. 2
Know the risks. Mixing alcohol with medications or illicit drugs is extremely dangerous and can lead to accidental death. For example, alcohol-medication interactions may be a factor in at least 25 percent of emergency room admissions.
Keep your edge. Alcohol can make you gain weight and give you bad breath.
Look around you. Most teens aren't drinking alcohol. According to a national 2006 study, 65% of 12th graders and 83% of 8th graders chose NOT to drink in the past 30 days. 3
Know the Signs
How can you tell if a friend has a drinking problem? Sometimes it's tough to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If your friend has one or more of the following warning signs, he or she may have a problem with alcohol:
Problems remembering things they recently said or did
Getting drunk on a regular basis
Lying about how much alcohol he or she is using
Believing that alcohol is necessary to have fun
Having frequent hangovers
Feeling run-down, depressed, or even suicidal
Having "blackouts"--forgetting what he or she did while drinking
Having problems at school or getting in trouble with the law
What can you do to help someone who has a drinking problem? Be a real friend. You might even save a life. Encourage your friend to stop or seek professional help. For information and referrals, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 800-729-6686.
Q. Aren't beer and wine "safer" than liquor?
A. No. One 12-ounce beer has about as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a wine cooler.
Q. Why can't teens drink if their parents can?
A. Teens' bodies are still developing and alcohol has a greater impact on their physical and mental well-being. For example, people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.
Q. How can I say no to alcohol? I'm afraid I won't fit in.
A. Remember, you're in good company. The majority of teens don't drink alcohol. Also, it's not as hard to refuse as you might think. Try: "No thanks," "I don't drink," or "I'm not interested."
SADA - Students Against Drugs and Alcohol is a non-profit community service organization. SADA believes in educating today's youth about drugs the proper way before they are confronted with substances in their everyday life.