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A Toast for Teens

When is the next beer party coming up? Someone’s birthday? After exams? Do you think guys who drink are real cool?

Here are some facts and answers to questions your peers frequently ask. Check this page before you reach for your next mug of beer. Because, before you can decide whether to drink or not to drink, you need to know the facts about alcohol use. This page is certainly not going to tell you what to do, but it will help you to make smart and sensible decisions.


The High?: the seemingly attractive aspects of alcohol

I am able to talk freely when I drink, it is real fun. Is this because alcohol is a stimulant?

No. Alcohol is a depressant drug. The chemical present in all alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol. It is a powerful drug, which depresses the central nervous system. Alcohol in small quantities slows down that part of the brain, which controls inhibitions. So you feel relaxed, talkative and carefree. Thus alcohol reduces the brain’s functioning and does not add to your ability to think, or communicate well. It certainly does not make you more intelligent or more informed.

Inhibitions are the moral restraints, which make us behave in a civilised manner and distinguish them from animals. Lowering of inhibitions means we are doing things out of control. Losing control of oneself is not fun. It is embarrassing.

“Come on, I say! Be a man…. Have one drink” – These are the words we commonly hear. Is drinking associated with masculinity?

No absolutely not. It is no more masculine to drink a lot than it is to eat a lot or to sleep a lot. Besides, a real man does not have to drink to prove he is a man.

Stages of Intoxication

One drink – Euphoria, Relaxation

Two drinks – Talkative

Three drinks – Impairment of judgement, reaction time lowered

Four drinks – Lack of motor co-ordination

Five drinks – Drunkenness, evident deterioration in physical and social control

Seven drinks – Staggering and double vision, vomiting

Fifteen drinks – Loss of consciousness, dilated pupils

Extremely large doses – Breathing stops, can result in death


The Hangover: the after effects of drinking

Effects of alcohol on the body

  • Alcohol does not need digestion. It is absorbed directly through the walls of the stomach and the small intestines into the blood stream. Once in the blood stream, alcohol travels to all parts of the body including the stomach, heart, kidneys, liver and the brain. Once alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream and distributed throughout the body, the process of oxidation begins.

  • The liver plays a major role in the breakdown or oxidation of alcohol. As a result of the process of oxidation, alcohol is changed into carbon-di-oxide, water and energy. The calories thus produced have absolutely no nutritional value. They are only empty calories, which may result in a ‘pot belly’.

  • The liver can burn alcohol only at a certain pace. It takes approximately one hour for one unit of alcohol (8- 10gms) to get out of the body.

  • Exercise, cold shower, hot bath, black coffee – none of these will help in making one sober. All that one can do is to wait and let the liver do its work.

  • Alcohol’s effects vary according to the amount of food eaten, body weight, experience in drinking and setting. For example, a person who is thin feels the effect of alcohol more quickly than a person who weighs more.Alcohol affects everybody, some more quickly than others.

Long – term effects

  • Regular excessive drinking over a period of time proves disastrous, impairing both the length and the quality of life. It damages both body and mind.

  • Physical damage leads to diseases like gastritis, ulcers, cardiomyopathy, polyneruritis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, etc. This is because the important organs of the body like the heart, liver and brain are affected.

  • As one continues to drink excessively, one’s tolerance for alcohol increases, that is, one is required to take more and more to experience the same effect.

  • One may gradually become physically addicted to and psychologically dependent on alcohol. Roughly two out of every ten people who drink end up as alcoholics. And nobody is immune – it can happen to anybody – you, him, her or me. One thing is certain – the more often you drink, the greater are your risks.

Many people don’t realise it is a powerful drug. They simply drink before they think and end up getting hooked on to it.

No Quick Fixes Can Make You Sober


Booze Buddies: drinking as a peer group activity

My uncle drinks…. My neighbour drinks … They all hold high positions, and are successful… so, why shouldn’t I?

Drinking often has a stronger effect on teenagers than it does on older people. Alcohol produces certain special kinds of problems for the adolescent. Here are a few:

Physical

Just when teenagers are reaching physical maturity, alcohol can lower resistance to infections and stunt physical development.

Mental

Alcohol impairs memory, reflexes and concentration – three vital prerequisites for good academic performance. It also reduces the ability to judge one’s own abilities. As a result, one may not even be aware of one’s poor performance.

Emotional

Young people need to meet challenges and make decisions that may leave lasting impressions in their lives. This means handling strong feelings that may be exciting and at the same time, frightening. Alcohol can really mess this up. It may block emotional growth, drive friends away and lead to a feeling of failure.

Sexual

A fundamental part of teenage development involves adjusting to a new identity as a man or a woman and learning how to make adult choices about sex. In too many cases, alcohol hampers judgement and discrimination. Hurt feelings, unhealthy relationships and HIV infection may result.

My parents tell me not to drink, as if it is so easy! How can I stay away from booze when all my friends drink?

It is, as you say, not really easy. Peer pressure is something everybody faces, no matter what their age is. It is hard to resist, but it is not impossible.

So, next time when you have to face the decision of whether to do what you feel is right, or go along with your friends and be accepted, remember that pleasing yourself is necessary before you can please others.

How much can one drink and still drive safely?

To put it plainly, none at all. Any drinking interferes with judgement, muscle control, vision, and reaction time – all very important for driving. So, even small amounts of alcohol can interfere enough with driving ability to create a highly dangerous situation.

In what ways can alcohol mean trouble?

  • Alcohol interferes with thinking ability and many young people have lost their career opportunities and future prospects due to irresponsible drinking.

  • People who are into sports know that drinking messes up timing and co-ordination. And in most cases, athletes who drink are not athletes who win.

  • “Why did I do or say that? ” – is the common cry of drinkers. They find out pretty quickly that losing control of oneself is humiliating.

  • Drinking even small amounts can affect driving ability. Drinking and driving can lead to injury, and even death, for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.


Saying “No”

How do I say “No” if someone offers me a drink?

You are different and have an identity of your own. So do preserve it. If you are feeling good about yourself and strongly believe that it is a mature decision, saying “No” will not be as hard. Say it casually, but firmly. You don’t have to give excuses or explanations. Remember that you have a right to say “Yes” to your bright future and wellbeing.

So it is upto you

Handle your choice smartly and sensibly

It is your life and your future

So

Think before you drink

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