Teenage Drinking- We Need to Fix This

October 27, 2010
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Homecoming night of his senior year, Chris was feeling unstoppable. After leading his team to victory, he finally felt like the world was his to take. Chris worked hard in school to keep his grades up. Last year, OSU offered him a fantastic scholarship that he gladly accepted. Party after party he celebrated with his friends until late into the night. He had a few drinks at each party, but he still felt in control. What harm was there in Chris having fun with his friends? Meeting up with Aubrey, his girlfriend, they decided to call it a night. Knowing he handled his liquor better, Chris climbed into the driver’s seat. The curvy roads wound them through the woods that lead to Chris’ house. With every turn, the road became fuzzier. No matter how much Chris tried to shake it off, the car kept crossing the centerline. As he turned to look at Aubrey, he felt the car veer to the left. Over correcting, the little car slammed into the oak tree beside the road. Was that night of celebration worth the two crosses that now stand at attention along the side of the road? Our culture has gotten to the point where we have made ourselves believe that teen drinking is okay, but our culture is wrong. We need to weigh the pros and cons before we teens ever pick up a bottle. From accidents to both short and long-term damage, teens needs to realize that our futures are right around the corner, or our mistakes will affect more than just us.

The statistics of alcohol-induced teenage car accidents are overwhelming. The Department of Transportation discovered that in the year 2006 over 19% of teens killed in car accidents had been drinking alcohol. Later, in 2008, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) said, “nearly three out of every four teen drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing a seat belt.” Think about the people you know who could be driving home drunk, putting themselves in danger by their impaired judgement? The CDC also said, “In 2008, 25% of drivers ages 15 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 g/dl or higher.” In 2007, the CDC had also conducted a survey where they asked teens if they had ridden with someone in the past month who was drunk. Roughly 3 out of 10 teens admitted to getting into a car with another teen who was under the influence. One in 10 even confessed that they themselves had driven drunk in the past month. How many of those surveyed weren’t even able to admit they had taken such a risk? My family was friends with a young man who took that risk. Coming home for Christmas from OSU, Brian didn’t weigh the odds and got into the car with a friend who was drunk. As he slept in the back seat, she ran them off the road. She survieved but he did not. Just think about it. Who of your friends drink? Are you okay with knowing the next time they get in the car to drive home could be the last trip they ever take? Would it be worth all that “fun” for you to never make it to graduation?

Drinking also affects your every day life. You may know better than to drive drunk but do you know what alcohol does to the brain? If you drink as a teen you are causing the hippocampus, which is located in the center of your brain and controls the brain’s learning and memory capibilities, to shrink. During the teenage years your brain goes through a lot of changes, molding itself into an adult brain. One of the biggest changes the brain undertakes is the development of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is located right behind your forehead, and it knows exatly what your body wants and needs. The prefrontal cortex’s job is to help make good decisions based off of what it knows about you and your body. The prefrontal cortex connects to not only the hippocampus, but also to the amygdala. The amygdala is like the brain’s boy scout, where survial skills are learned. They all work together as a system to keep you thinking clearly. Since they are the brain’s voice of reasoning, helping to make decisions, they need to stay healthy; in order to make wise decisions for you. When you drink the first parts of you to get “drunk” are, the hippocampus, prefontal cortex, and amygdala. Once they are “drunk” you are not able to make good decisions for yourself. That guy you think is cute and safe, really isn’t, but you are not able to see the warning signs because your brain is getting “drunk”. If you consume enough alcohol in one sitting you may experience what is called a “black out.” This is when your hippocampus completely shuts down and you will not remember anything you do. Black outs can cause you to do anything from becoming violent to engaging in sexual activity and you will not remember a thing about it. Think about all the things that could happen in that time frame. No matter how much alcohol you consume, the next day your body will go through withdrawl. The signs of this come in the forms of headaches, nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, physical pain, and mild anxiety. These factors over time will affect your relationships and personal and emotional health.

What happens after the party that weekend is over? Monday morning, your “hangover” has run it’s course and you roll out of bed to get to school. You feel back to normal, yet your brain will never recover from that party over the weekend. Teenagers who drink, permanantly damage their prefrontal cortex, causing a 10% decrease in mental capabilities. In an experiment conducted by the University of California, San Diego, and the San Diego Health Care System, thirty-three teenagers who drank regularly were followed for eight years. Their results showed that those thirity-three students’ test scores regarding thinking, reasoning, and learning were lower than that of non-drinking students. They were not able to remember things they had learned, even as simple as remembering the word “apple.” In the article “Effects of Teenage Drinking,” the article said, “consuming a little more than five drinks per occasion is associated with a half a grade lower GPA.” That could make or break a college career. Alcohol not only affects your academic work but your moral conduct can be on the line as well. Alcohol causes you to loose control. The teenage years are crucial building blocks for success as a funtioning adult. If we ruin our chances to succeed now, what future will we have? All our chances to make something of our world will be gone if we waste our time getting drunk.

We say, “Someday we will grow up, and get sober, putting our partying days behind us and become responsible citizens.” What if there is no “after school”? What happens if you don’t make it through college? What if you never make it through high school? You will not have a diploma or a degree; therefore, success in the job market will be hard. Even worse than that, Effects of Teenage Drinking says, “ Approximately 40 percent of the drinkers who got started before fifteen were classified later in life as alcohol dependent.” Becoming addicted to alcohol doesn’t mean getting help is useless. The developments your brain goes through durring the teenage years will make stopping harder for you though. Alcohol consumption as a teen can almost “freeze” your brain’s development and create patterns that become very hard to break as an adult. Teenage drinking is not something to take lightly. The damage lasts forever. Alcohol abuse as a teen also causes severe memory loss as you get older. A study done by the University of California, San Diego, and the San Diego Health Care System resulted in the discovery that the brain is alarmingly less active during tasks that use memory in people who abused alcohol as a teen than those who did not. You say someday you will stop all the drinking but what if alcohol makes you a slave before you can stop? What if you have to watch a loved one suffer for the rest of his or her life because they did not stop when they had a chance? You can stop them, you can save yourself.

Alcohol can have many lasting harmful effects. If only Chris hadn’t gotten drunk that night. What if he had celebrated in a different way, a way that didn’t leave him impaired? Everyday is a new day. We are still young and breathing. There are ways to have fun without needing to make yourself vulnerable to permanant consequences. Adults tell us all the time that we are the future. What kind of a future do we want? We need to be strong and healthy leaders for the generation after us, and it starts with a personal choice. Make a personal vow to be different, to not take the drink that is offered to you. Encourage your friends to do the same. Do something safe and fun on a Friday night instead of getting “wasted.” Do you want to wake up ten years down the road with regrets? Life is too short for regrets. We have the power to change the world. We can’t throw our futures away when we still have our whole lives ahead of us.





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