Question of the Week

September 29, 2003


"WASHINGTON -- More young people drink alcohol than use other drugs or smoke tobacco, and underage drinking costs the nation an estimated $53 billion annually in losses stemming from traffic fatalities, violent crime, and other behaviors that threaten the well-being of America's youth."
National Academies of Science
Updated source:

Since many teens tune out at the onset of one more monologue about the evils of alcohol, the following paragraph is just the facts. What does the body do with alcohol when it is ingested, and what are the noticeable--and more subtle--biological results? No value judgments; no ages: this is what happens to any body when it ingests alcohol.

"When people drink, alcohol is absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. That's why drinking small amounts of alcohol reduces anxiety. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters your perceptions, your emotions, and even your movements, vision, and hearing....When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result....Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom, 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."

While we may relate alcohol related deaths to traffic accidents, falls, or even liver problems and heart problems many years down the road, alcohol poisoning can also be fatal--and can be the result of one night of drinking too much.

You may know someone who has passed out, gotten hurt, or even died as a result of an out-of-control night of drinking. You may not. Have you ever been concerned for the health and/or safety of a friend or relative who you thought was drinking too much? Well, doctors and scientists are concerned about underage drinking, in general; and they think they have some ideas about how to "curb underage drinking."

"Study Targets Underage Drinkers
WASHINGTON, September 10, 2003 "...Calling its report a wake-up call, the Institute [Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council] urged a number of steps to curb underage drinking, including higher federal and state taxes, better state identification cards and more aggressive efforts to detect and stop underage drinking parties."
Related teaching resources: Reach Out Now, SAMHSA

This brings up some questions...

Questions of the Week:
Why do teens drink as much as they do? Will these attempts to slow access to alcohol help "curb underage drinking"? What would help teens, young adults, and adults to drink more responsibly? If a person is under 21, is there such a thing as responsible drinking--or is the only way to be responsible to not drink at all? With all of the focus on getting teens to stop drinking, are the reasons that some teens and young adults drink irresponsibly being addressed and dealt with? What do teens (and adults) need to know about alcohol, and how could this information be presented so that teens would hear it without tuning it out?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]com
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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