The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor.” Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Harvard Health explains that “alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” When a teenager drinks alcohol, it enters his or her bloodstream immediately and reaches the brain within five minutes of consumption. The half-life, meaning the length of time the substance will remain in one’s system until the concentration in one’s blood has been reduced by half, of alcohol is four to five hours. However, about five half-lives are required to fully eliminate alcohol from one’s body. Hence, it will take about 25 hours for one’s body to clear all the alcohol. Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teens in America.
Risks and Consequences
It is highly common for teenagers to experiment with alcohol use during adolescence, for some to self-medicate, and for others merely out of curiosity. Regardless, teenagers that habitually abuse alcohol place themselves at increased risk for developing adverse short- and long-term physiological outcomes. According to the CDC, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience:
- Delayed puberty
- Liver damage
- Negative effects on the reproductive system
- Elevated levels of liver enzymes
- Reduced growth potential and/ or stunted limbs
- Lowered bone mineral density
- Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries (e.g., burns, falls, drowning, etc.)
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity
- Memory problems
- Misuse of other substances
- Increased risk of suicide and homicide
- Physical and sexual violence
The American Psychological Association asserts that “children who begin drinking by age 13 have a 38% higher risk of developing alcohol dependence later in life.” One of the most dangerous risks is the possibility of alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism symptoms of alcohol overdose include “mental confusion, difficulty remaining conscious, vomiting, seizure, trouble breathing, slow heart rate, clammy skin, dulled responses such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking), and extremely low body temperature.” Alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage, and in severe cases be fatal.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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