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How Alcohol Effects Teenagers

Essay by review  •  February 27, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,056 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,131 Views

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Alcohol has many effects on the body, especially the teenage body. Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not only adult problems -- they also affect a significant number of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 20, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal (Dimeff 204).

Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items - everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative. When people drink alcohol, it's absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions.

Alcohol effects the brain, skin, liver, heart, stomach, reproductive organs, and ones weight. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This

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alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing (Ruben 54-59).

In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their

speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry.

Reaction times are slowed dramatically - which is why people are told not to drink and drive. People who are intoxicated may think they're moving properly when they're not. They may act totally out of character.

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result. Alcohol poisoning is exactly what it sounds like - the body has become poisoned by large amounts of alcohol. Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom of alcohol poisoning, as the body tries to rid itself of the alcohol. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, and even death may result (Schaefer 99-101).

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Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.

New research on adolescent brain development suggests that early heavy alcohol use may also have negative effects on the actual physical development of brain structure.

Youth with alcohol use disorders also performed worse on memory tests than nondrinkers, further suggesting that the structural difference in hippocampus size was affecting brain functioning.

Alcohol use during adolescence may have a direct effect on brain functioning: negative effects included decreased ability in planning and executive functioning, memory, spatial operations, and attention (Burns 187-197).

It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.

You should also know that a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even

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after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Some critical signs for alcohol poisoning are:

* Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused.

* Vomiting.

* Seizures.

* Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute).

* Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).

* Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness.

The average age when youth first try alcohol is 11 years for boys and 13 years for girls. The average age at which Americans begin drinking regularly is 15.9 years old. According to research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. An early age of drinking

onset is also associated with alcohol-related violence not only among persons under age 21 but among adults as well. It has been

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estimated that over three million teenagers are out-and-out alcoholics. Several million more have a serious drinking problem that they cannot manage on their own (Sales 217-221).

The three leading causes of death for 15- to 24-year-olds are automobile crashes, homicides and suicides -- alcohol is a leading factor in all three. While drinking may be a singular problem behavior for some, research suggests that for others it may be an expression of general adolescent turmoil that includes other problem behaviors and that these behaviors are linked to unconventionality, impulsiveness, and sensation seeking (Ruben 335).

Binge drinking, often beginning around age 13, tends to increase during adolescence, peak in young adulthood (ages 18-22), then gradually decrease. Individuals who increase their binge drinking from age 18 to 24 and those who consistently binge drink at least once a week during this period may have problems attaining the goals

typical of the transition from adolescence to young adulthood (e.g., marriage, educational attainment, employment, and financial independence).

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Dependence on alcohol and other drugs is also associated with several psychiatric problems, such as:

* depression

* anxiety

* oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

* antisocial personality disorder

Alcohol use among adolescents has also been associated with considering,

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