Alcohol Drug Facts

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD ranges from mild to severe.

How does alcohol affects a person’s body?

When people drink alcohol, they may temporarily feel elated and happy, but they should not be fooled. As blood alcohol level rises, the effects on the body—and the potential risks—multiply.

  • Inhibitions and memory become affected, so people may say and do things that they will regret later and possibly not remember doing at all.
  • Decision-making skills are affected, so people may be at greater risk for driving under the influence—and risking an alcohol-related traffic crash—or making unwise decisions about sex.
  • Aggression can increase, potentially leading to everything from verbal abuse to physical fights.
  • Coordination and physical control are also impacted. When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.

Consuming a dangerously high amount of alcohol can also lead to alcohol overdose and death. When people drink too much, they may eventually pass out (lose consciousness). Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means people who have had too much alcohol could vomit and choke, or just stop breathing completely. Vulnerability to overdose increases if the teen is already on a sedative-hypnotic (such as Valium, Xanax, or Benadryl) or pain medication.

What are the negative consequences of underage drinking?

Underage drinking poses a range of risks and negative consequences. It is dangerous because it:

Causes many deaths

Based on data from 2006–2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, on average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year. This includes:

  • 1,580 deaths from motor vehicle crashes
  • 1,269 from homicides
  • 245 from alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, and drowning
  • 492 from suicides

Causes many injuries

Drinking alcohol can cause kids to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.

Impairs judgment

Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior.

Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault

Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.

Can lead to other problems

Drinking may cause youth to have trouble in school or with the law. Drinking alcohol also is associated with the use of other drugs.

Increases the risk of alcohol problems later in life

Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.

Interferes with brain development

Research shows that young people’s brains keep developing well into their 20s. Alcohol can alter this development, potentially affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.

Is underage drinking a serious health problem?

Underage drinking is drinking alcohol before a person turns age 21, which is the minimum legal drinking age in the United States. Underage drinking is a serious problem, as you may have seen from your friends’ or your own experiences. Alcohol is the most commonly used substance of abuse among young people in America, and drinking when you’re underage puts your health and safety at risk.

Why do teens drink alcohol?

Teens drink for a variety of reasons. Some teens want to experience new things. Others feel pressured into drinking by peers. And some are looking for a way to cope with stress or other problems. Unfortunately, drinking will only make any problems a person has already worse, not better.

Full credits to The National Institute on Drug Abuse Blog Team on this piece.

NIDA. (2020, March 23). National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® celebrates 10 years. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2020/03/national-drug-alcohol-facts-weekr-celebrates-10-years on 2020, April 1

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