By Erendira Zazueta, Coalition Coordinator
Alcohol has been around for centuries just in different forms. It has been accepted in society as a regular legal substance, however, it was illegal for some time during the great depression. Although it is a legal substance it doesn’t mean it’s safe to use it or abuse it. While it’s normal to have a few drinks of alcohol throughout the week it can still cause some damage to your body.
Alcohol affects many parts of the body including the heart, liver, and brain. Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works, which can make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination. That’s just one of the short-term effects. Other short-term effects are injuries like falling, violence, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, miscarriages, and others. There are also many long-term effects of drinking. The long-term effects of drinking include things like high blood-pressure, stroke, liver disease, memory problems, mental health problems, alcohol dependence and more. Not drinking as much or not drinking at all can help reduce these risks.
Another risk of drinking is getting alcohol poisoning which can be fatal. This happens when you drink large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, and body temperature which can possibly lead to a coma or death. Some of the symptoms can be vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, low body temperature, confusion, trouble staying conscious or awake. If you think someone might have alcohol poisoning, seek medical care no matter the situation, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This applies to anyone, even if they are underage.
Some underage drinkers don’t call 911 or seek medical help because they are afraid of the consequences they’ll face if the authorities find out they are minors, but some states have the Good Samaritan law. The Good Samaritan law protects individuals, even persons under the age of 21, if they call in an emergency involving alcohol consumption or drug overdose. So, even if an underage person consumed or was in possession of alcohol illegally, they would not face any criminal consequences as medical assistance was required to save a life.
Even if it is hard to accept, underage drinking happens. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2022, 5.9 million youth ages 12-20 reported drinking alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month. More than 90% of all beverages containing alcohol consumed by youth are consumed through binge drinking. This means that kids and teens are not only drinking alcohol but also drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time, which can be even more fatal or damaging to them. While stores will not sell to minors there are still many ways that they can obtain alcohol. They do this by using fake ID’s, asking a friend, older siblings, their parents, or stealing from gas stations. It’s best to educate children about the dangers of alcohol and what it does to your body and how it can harm you. Another important thing to mention to them is that they can get a DUI and that will affect their lives as well. Teens are still developing, and alcohol can disrupt that development. Even at 21 the brain is still developing.
Binge drinking is a problem in general regardless of age. 1 in 4 US adults who binge drink consume at least eight drinks during a binge occasion. Binge drinking occurs when someone drinks multiple drinks within an hour, which could also lead to alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is most common among younger adults aged 18-34. This doesn’t mean just drinking multiple beers in one hour, it could be having multiple shots of hard liquor, multiple hard seltzers, multiple glasses of wine, any kind of alcohol. There are ways to prevent binge drinking but the first step is to acknowledge that it’s an unhealthy behavior. From there you can create a plan and find somebody to help support you.
Drinking is glamorized all over social media, in movies, or by celebrities and it’s very normalized in society but it’s still a very toxic substance. People who are going through withdrawal from an alcohol addiction must be monitored by nurses because even the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Someone going through alcohol withdrawal can experience shakiness, sweating, nausea, insomnia, seizure, and other symptoms. Withdrawals can happen after a night of drinking, or they can happen when someone is trying to recover from an alcohol addiction and usually during that time the symptoms are way worse and can even be fatal.
Alcohol will always be around, and it will be legal to consume within limitations. It is your job whether you choose to drink responsibly or not. Avoid binge drinking and limit your alcohol consumption to not have those alcohol withdrawals. Never drive while intoxicated, always have a designated driver.
Thank you for checking out this week’s blog, be sure to check back next week for a new one!
1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2023). https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). Alcohol Use and Your Health. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm#:~:text=Over%20time%2C%20excessive%20alcohol%20use,liver%20disease%2C%20and%20digestive%20problems.
3. Mayo Clinic (2023). Alcohol Poisoning. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354386
4. Foundation For Advance Alcohol Responsibility (2020). Good Samaritan Laws. https://www.responsibility.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Good-Samaritan-Laws-2020.pdf
1. White Sands Treatment (2018.) Alcohol Poisoning symptoms – What Are The Warning Signs?. https://whitesandstreatment.com/2018/04/02/alcohol-poisoning-signs/
2. Mom.com (2023). What You Need To Know About Teens And Alcohol. https://mom.com/kids/what-you-need-to-know-about-teens-and-alcohol
3. USNews (2020). Binge Drinking Is a Big Problem in These 11 States. https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/slideshows/binge-drinkers-drink-the-most-in-these-states