How Alcohol Effects Teenagers

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Alcohol has many effects on the body, especially the teenage body. Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not only adult problems -- they also affect a significant number of adolescents and young adults between the ages of 12 and 20, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal (Dimeff 204).

Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items - everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative. When people drink alcohol, it's absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions.

Alcohol effects the brain, skin, liver, heart, stomach, reproductive organs, and ones weight. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This 2

alters a person's perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing (Ruben 54-59).

In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry.

Reaction times are slowed dramatically - which is why people are told not to drink and drive. People who are intoxicated may think they're moving properly when they're not. They may act totally out of character.

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result. Alcohol poisoning is exactly what it sounds like - the body has become poisoned by large amounts of alcohol. Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom of alcohol poisoning, 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 (Schaefer 99-101).

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.
New research on adolescent brain development suggests that early heavy alcohol use may also have negative effects on the actual physical development of brain structure.
Youth with alcohol use disorders also performed worse on memory tests than nondrinkers, further suggesting that the structural difference in hippocampus size was affecting brain functioning.
Alcohol use during adolescence may have a direct effect on brain functioning: negative effects included decreased ability in planning and executive functioning, memory, spatial operations, and attention (Burns 187-197).

It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication. You should also know that a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even 4

after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Some critical signs for alcohol poisoning are:
•Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused. •Vomiting.
•Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute).
•Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths). •Hypothermia (low body temperature),...
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