One of those alarming physical changes is that the younger a person is when they begin drinking, even at low levels the more likely they are to become alcoholics. This change even overrides a known genetic predisposition for alcoholism. (Butler, July 4, 2006) Time forward ads regarding adult failure could be developed at a later time but again such images and concerns do not seem to sway teens. Funding for such a campaign would likely come from national and local foundations that stress clean living, and possibly from litigation funds that have been secured for healthier youth programs.
Alcohol use may begin simply as an exciting experiment, or as a way for a teen to feel a part of his or her peer group, lowering the feeling of awkwardness that often comes with the territory. Yet teen drinking can become a social disaster, that brings on extreme grief and loss. Legal problems, social problems, death of friends or family and even teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases can be spread because your whole mind is not working when you are drinking (Plant & Plant, 1992). "-Sixty percent of college women diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection. (Advocacy Institute, 1992)" (Sound Vision Foundation, 2009) This does not even consider the long-term effects like permanent alcoholism or even dependence on other, harder drugs that affect you more and have really high costs. (Ponton, 1997) "In a 2001 survey, 41% of frequent binge drinkers reported having unplanned sex and 21% reported having unsafe sex as a result of their drinking in the past year." (Cooper, March 2002)
Alcohol use may seem like a fun pastime, to add to the exciting time of being a teen, or a way to help you to talk to people you would normally be afraid to approach, but its reality is far more dangerous. It is completely clear, even from one experience with alcohol that even though it may seem fun, there is always point when drinking goes too far and people get hurt, physically and/or emotionally, either from their own behavior or from the bad impaired decisions of others they are with.
Image 1 Cartoon of progression of alcohol use in teens. First simply steeling a few drinks from parent's liquor cabinet, then drinking alone when angry or depressed and then binge drinking to excess while being cheered on by "friends." (Butler, July 4, 2006)
Getting caught can also be a frightening and costly experience as parents, police, school administrators and others use zero tolerance policies to try to stop teens from drinking. At the very least, you can lose the trust and faith of your family and teachers. You can lose your drivers license, even if you are not driving when you get caught, trying to buy alcohol, just for having it with you or being somewhere where alcohol is being consumed by others under 21, and of course if you get caught drinking. Many states institute an immediate 90 day to one year suspension of driving privileges for anyone under 21 caught drinking, holding or trying to buy alcohol and some even if you happen to be at a party where people under 21 are drinking. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2008) Or you or friends could die.
I can assure you that you probably do not look as cool as you think you do:
Image 2 Very Young Drinkers
(Boys with alcohol (bs269120), inmagine.com)
Image 3 Teens Drinking in Clubs
("Pocket Money Alcohol…," November, 11, 2007)
Image 4 Drunk Teen Passed out on Floor.
("AH shoes the best pillow…"myspace.com)
Image 5 Teen Girl Passed Out on sidewalk.
("Teen Alcohol Abuse…," 2005)
Images of teens in compromised or fundamentally, "embarrassing" situations seem to be more effective than the scare tactics often used by other popular campaigns. Alcohol, unlike food does not slowly digest in the body, so the speed that alcohol is consumed, such as in binge drinking makes a real difference in how fast someone gets drunk and how long they stay that way. Legally drunk, in most states is a Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 which is usually a single drink in one hour, 1, 12 oz beer or a much smaller amount of hard alcohol. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, June 2003) Some of the physical effects of alcohol at different BAC levels are found in the following figure.
The effects of alcohol on the brain are different for teens because even though you might think you are or you might look completely grown up, your brain is still developing. Because your brain is still developing and because your body is flooded with other new and natural chemicals called hormones, you are already predisposed to take risks that most adults would not take. This means that just being offered alcohol is dangerous because you have a limited ability to say no, even if you are smart enough to know better. (Spear, 2002) Below is a MRI image of the progressive growth of the brain from 5-year to age 20. The picture represents the maturing of the brain to a point where much of the brain has developed neurons, coating and connected pathways. Once can see from the picture that the middle and second to last sections, the teen years there is still a great deal of the brain not completely communicating with other parts of the brain. Many believe that this is the reason why teens are not completely capable of making well thought out decisions about what is safe and what is not safe. (Eide Neurolearning Blog, March 14, 2005) We might be just as "smart" as adults but our whole brain, connecting the thinking part of our brain to the acting part of our brian is not complete. Teens are not swayed by this sort of information as being in the period does not lend itself to seeing outside of it. Little of this information seems to trickle down to a teen when they consider drinking, as it does not speak to their greater desire to be accepted and to be given equal opportunity.
There is also a lot of evidence that alcohol effects teens more than it does adults, so one drink might be more than you can actually handle and many in a short time, binge drinking can cause you to be drunker than it would an adult your same size. (Hannigan, Spear, Spear, & Goodlett, 1999, p. 257) Without the experience to handle alcohol and with the special circumstances of brain and body development that are associated with simply growing up alcohol can be a very dangerous ingredient and make a big difference between a good night out with friends and a nightmare you live with for the rest of your life. Just getting in the car with a driver who has been drinking is a risk that many teens all over the country take, over and over.
Source: CDC YRBS, 2005 (Office on Women's Health, 2005)
Many teens probably choose to ride with someone who has been drinking simply because they would rather take the risk of doing this than of getting in trouble for getting home to late or having to call home for a ride. As you can see from the above graph girls are more likely to ride with people who have been drinking than boys and boys are more likely to drive after they have been drinking. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving eight young people a day die in alcohol related car accidents. (Sound Vision Foundation, 2009) "On average someone is killed by a drunk driver every 40 minutes." (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2008) Teens rarely think about the consequences of riding with a drunk driver, mostly because again they feel as if they are unlikely to be the one who gets caught, doing anything but breaking curfew.
The problem of teen drinking is also a lot bigger than many probably think as reports from teens themselves are significant, "In 2007, 18.6 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with dependence on or abuse of alcohol. This represents 7.5% of the population. The number and the percentage have remained similar since 2002." (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008)
Among persons aged 12 to 20, past month alcohol use rates in 2007 were 16.8% among Asians, 18.3% among blacks, 24.7% among Hispanics, 26.2% among those reporting two or more races, 28.3% among American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 32.0% among whites. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2008)
Reasons teens give for drinking also often have a lot to do with what it means to be a teenager, all the confusion, anger and frustration that is involved. "- More than 40% of teens who admitted drinking said they…