Alcohol Consumption Among Teens

Middle schoolers are fresh out of the ‘little kid’ stage but have yet to enter into their full-fledged teen experience. Nonetheless, government reports say that these fresh-faced youngsters are already busy experimenting with alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) tracks drug and alcohol use in our country through its annual National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health. In 2007 the SAMHSA found that 25 percent of eighth graders had had a drink of alcohol during the past 30 days and 18 percent of them had been drunk at least one time during the past year. The survey further revealed that close to 30 percent of teens ages 12 to 20 were drinking alcohol and close to 20 percent were binge drinking (consuming five plus drinks on one occasion).  Another six percent described themselves as heavy drinkers. Adults should take note of these figures as alcohol can work just like a drug – it can be abused, be a source of addiction which will require treatment, and damage good health. Many people, including teens, choose to drink because alcohol works as a depressant. That doesn’t mean alcohol puts people in a bad mood, rather that it depresses (or suppresses) certain bodily functions: slowing the heartbeat, slowing breathing and weighing down the thinking process. All this slowness makes a person feel more relaxed, but it’s still a potentially dangerous manipulation of the central nervous system. The teen (or adult) who drinks will experience an obvious slowing of motor skills and cognition. A lack of coordination, slurred speech, blurry vision and difficulty carrying on intelligent conversation are not just fodder for viral videos, they point to just how impaired the central nervous system has become. If overconsumption of alcohol persists into adulthood, teens are creating a perfect storm for liver damage, stomach ulcers, impaired kidney function, enlarged arteries and veins, as well as damaged heart muscle. Teens may be oblivious to long-term consequences, but a wealth of research shows that adults with alcohol addiction often began experimenting with alcohol during their teen years. Popular culture says that the effects of alcohol can be undone with a strong cup of coffee or a cold shower. This, however, is not the case when it comes to the adolescent brain. In its formative stage the brain is more vulnerable to alcohol’s effects, with even permanent damage a possibility, including the ability to form and recall memory. The general rule of thumb for safe alcohol consumption with adults is one drink per hour along with food. But for teens, drinking alcohol is dangerous and illegal. There is no safety zone.

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