Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Drinking: Facts for
If I were 21 no one would care if I
Not true. Even adults get warnings about the
risks of alcohol. The major difference is that buying or drinking alcohol is
illegal for people under age 21. Also, the younger you start drinking, the
earlier alcohol can affect how you feel now and how you’ll feel when
It’s not easy to “Just
say no” when my friends are drinking.
Television and radio make it sound easy to
“Just say no,” but it may not be so simple for you. You’re
facing some real pressures: your friends may want you to drink with them, you
may be stressed out at home, school or work, or you may think drinking is a way
to make people like you. But remember, only you can make decisions about what
you do or don’t do. This is your chance to be your own person. If you feel
you need help to say no, then get the support you need. Talk to your family
doctor or another adult you can trust.
How much alcohol is really in a
Beer usually has 3% to 5% alcohol. Wine has 9%
to 16%. Hard liquor usually contains the highest levels (up to 50%). Most states
consider an adult to be “under the influence” or intoxicated
(meaning drunk) at 0.08% blood level of alcohol. But for people under 21, many
states have lowered their definition of intoxication to .02% or lower. For a man
who weighs 160 pounds, this might mean as few as 1 to 2 beers (12 ounce cans) in
an hour. For a woman who weighs 120 pounds, this might mean less than 1 beer in
Why should I say no to a beer or a
Because alcohol is a drug and you can become
addicted to it. It changes the way your mind and body work. Even 1 beer can slow
your reactions and confuse your thinking. This means anything that requires
concentration and coordination -- like driving -- is more dangerous when
you’ve had a drink.
The coffee myth
Don’t believe the myth that coffee can
make you sober. Coffee will only make you a wide-awake drunk. It won’t
help you think faster or speed up your reactions. And coffee may hold the hidden
danger of making you think you’re alert enough to drive when you really
Alcohol also changes the way you act. It can
make you let go of your inhibitions -- the feelings that normally keep you from
doing things you know are risky or even dangerous. So a couple of beers might
make it easier for you to talk to a cute guy or girl, or be the life of the
party. But it can also lead you to make bad decisions -- like having sex before
you’re ready, having unsafe sex or driving when you’ve been
drinking. You might try to tell yourself, “It won’t happen to
me.” But we all know people who have said that and then ended up in the
hospital, or worse.
What problems does alcohol cause?
Alcohol can ruin your health. The more you
drink, the more damage is done. You can get alcohol poisoning if you drink too
much too fast. As the level of alcohol in your blood rises, the chemicals in
your body can cause vomiting or seizures, or you may pass out. This type of
poisoning will make you sicker than you’ve probably ever been.
Other things alcohol can do
- Make you gain weight
- Make you feel sick and dizzy
- Make your breath smell bad
- Make you throw up
- Make you clumsy and slur your speech
- Make your skin break out
- Make you feel out of control
Cirrhosis of the liver is one of the most
well-known effects of alcohol abuse. Cirrhosis stops the liver from being able
to clean the toxins (poisons) out of your body, which can cause a type of
poisoning. Alcohol can also cause stomach ulcers that can lead to internal
bleeding. If you drink when you’re pregnant, your baby could be born
mentally retarded or with other birth defects.
When is drinking a problem?
Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in
your relationships, your school or social activities, or how you think or feel.
A drinking problem usually starts when you just
drink now and then. People often start drinking when they feel stressed or
because their friends drink. Drinking may make you think that you will forget
about your problems or make you feel more liked by others. But after the party
or the next day you’re still the same person with the same problems. And
you might have a new problem -- needing a drink.
How do I know if I have a problem?
Ask yourself the following questions to find out
if you have a problem with alcohol. If you answer yes to any one of them, you
probably have a drinking problem.
- Do you sometimes drink more than you mean to?
- Have you tried and failed to cut back on your
- Do you ever have hangovers?
- Have your problems at school, work or with your
- Do you keep drinking even though you know
it’s causing you problems?
- Do you drink when you’re stressed out?
- Do you drink alone?
- Can you drink more than you used to be able to?
- Do you sometimes feel guilty about drinking?
- Do you feel uncomfortable when you haven’t
had a drink?
- Do you ever have blackouts after you’ve
- Do you regret things that you say or do when
you’ve been drinking?
How can I stop
What causes a hangover?
As you drink, your body tries to make up for the
changes alcohol causes. It “turns up” all of its senses. When the
alcohol begins to wear off, these heightened senses cause shakiness, headaches
and nausea. Everything may seem louder, bigger and faster.
The first step is to admit you have a problem
and to get help. Talk to your family doctor, a school counselor, your family, or
your minister or priest. The phone book is a good resource to find contact
information for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other groups that help people
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug
Dependence : www.ncadd.org