Drinking: A Fun Time or Deadly?
April 2, 2015
Have you had a drink in the past 30 days? According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) “by age 15, half of teens have had at least one drink. By age 18, more than 70% of teens have had at least one drink.”
In many European countries the legal drinking age is 16 or even younger. Although the drinking age for the United States is 21, many teens drink regularly.
“[I drink] probably about every other weekend,” Emily* said. “Because it’s fun. It’s a different kind of fun. And it’s nice to let loose.”
Some students find that drinking not only is a way to unwind from a stressful week of school, but it also allows them to become more social.
“[My experience with drinking is] mostly positive,” Edgar* said. “It allows me to be more confident and approachable.”
While the short term symptoms from drinking may cause a sense of euphoria, the NIAAA states that later effects include: difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times and impaired memory. All of these symptoms may lead to serious injury or even death. A long term effect of excessive drinking is liver disease.
“Some people who have liver disease, such as cirrhosis have complications that cause massive bleeding from the esophagus,” Nurse Practitioner Lisa Harrison said. “These are called esophageal varices, and if they erupt a person can bleed to death or drown in their own blood.”
The consumption of more than four drinks within a two hour time period, or binge drinking, is becoming increasingly popular amongst high schoolers due to its current popularity in colleges across the country.
“Binge drinking is terrible, a terrible idea,” Harrison said. “I have taken care of the patients who drink too much, drink to black out and then have to be put on a breathing machine (life support) because they are so sick.”
Binge drinking speeds up the symptom process and often times leads to blackouts and severe memory loss.
Many underage drinkers gravitate towards liquor rather than wine or beer because of its higher concentration of alcohol and its ability to effect the user in fewer drinks.
“There are studies that show a glass of red wine or two daily has cardioprotective properties. Liquor does not show similar benefit,” Harrison said.
Although drinking may seem harmless at the time, it is important to keep the long term effects in mind and be sure not to drive or binge drink at all costs.