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To Drink or Not to Drink? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , -, FL
One quiet evening two years ago, my family and I were watching a movie when we received an urgent phone call. My mother's brother had been rushed to the hospital because of liver failure. Our family was thrown into a panic as we realized that the deadly effects of alcoholism were choking the life from this precious member of our family. My uncle was in critical condition, and my parents hurried to the hospital, unsure of how long he would live.

The impact of alcohol is apparent in almost every aspect of our society. We can see it in grocery stores, at restaurants, in professional sports, and on TV. Americans drink 432 million gallons of liquor, 711 million gallons of wine, and six billion gallons of beer every year. The American Council for Drug Education estimates that “nearly half of all Americans over the age of 12 are consumers of alcohol.” Alcohol truly holds a significant place in our culture. However, the subject of alcohol often makes people a bit defensive. Some argue that it is wrong to drink at all, others hold the position that moderate drinking is acceptable, and many are unsure of their opinion, or have no beliefs about the “morality” of drinking. I believe complete abstinence is the highest and best way because of alcohol's effects on our nation, its influence on our families and social circles, and its impact on its users, both physically and emotionally.

Alcohol's negative impact on our nation is overwhelming, Alcohol abuse costs the country $175.9 billion each year. Every day there is a report of a robbery, murder, or case of abuse where alcohol was a factor. The range of the damage that alcohol brings is not limited to drinkers. Family members and friends receive the brunt of the impact. Perhaps you know someone close to you who is addicted. Two of my uncles are alcoholics, and have been in and out of detox facilities for years. My aunt is a recovering alcoholic, my grandfather is too, and my great-grandfather died an alcoholic. My two cousins are living with us because of their parents' condition.

A startling fact about alcohol use, whether moderate or excessive, is that parents have a great impact on the drinking habits of their children. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that “Parents' drinking behavior and favorable attitudes about drinking have been positively associated with adolescents' initiating and continuing drinking.” Two out of three teens surveyed in an American Medical Association study admitted that it was easy to obtain alcohol from their homes without their parents' knowledge. When weighed against the possibility of a teen becoming dependent on alcohol, is even the occasional pleasure of drinking worth the risk?

Not only does alcohol damage our nation, families, and friends, but it also harms our bodies. The human brain and body are very sensitive to the presence of alcohol. Perhaps you have noticed that even a small amount of alcohol can make a person appear happy or more talkative. More drastic effects include staggering or slurred speech.

Alcohol affects a person's behavior because it is a depressant, and a very poisonous substance to the body. The liver can only metabolize small amounts at a time, so the alcohol waiting to be processed is circulated to the brain where it begins to interfere with cell function and information transfer. One ounce of alcohol slows muscular reaction and decision-making. It also lessens coordination and concentration, and causes loss of inhibition. Even very small amounts of alcohol cause these side effects; when someone drinks any amount of alcohol, the question is not if they are drunk, but how drunk are they?

Drinking and driving is one of the most serious areas of concern. There is a drunk-driving death every 31 minutes in the United States, and alcohol is a factor in almost 40 percent of fatal accidents.

Another important fact is that alcohol is highly ­addictive. This makes it a challenge for one to remain a “moderate” drinker, and extremely difficult for an alcoholic to quit. Genetic studies show that some are predisposed to a weakness resisting alcohol addiction. If you have an alcoholic in your family, there is an even stronger chance that, should you ever start drinking, you will become an alcoholic. This fact makes moderate drinking that much more dangerous.

A friend was once close friends with a beautiful family. The mother was a vibrant, devoted parent. Several years ago, she began to have a glass of wine with dinner when she and her husband went out. Eventually, one glass turned into two, then three, until she was consuming large amounts of alcohol. She and her husband separated, and she began to abuse her children and consequently lost custody of them.

How can alcohol pull a person down so quickly? The answer is found in its chemical composition. It produces certain chemical reactions in the brain that release dopamine, a substance that causes feelings of well being. These reactions also stimulate endorphin production, which is a natural painkiller. This “feel good” effect drives people to drink increasing amounts. But here's the catch: when a certain amount of alcohol is consistently consumed, the body becomes tolerant of that, and more is necessary to produce the same physical effect. This progressive process is similar to other addictive drugs. As one alcoholic described it, “[After] you take that first drink, you want to replicate that rush. I wanted to get to that point [again].” (Chicago Tribune) This feeling is so powerful that it drives many beyond their resolutions to remain moderate drinkers leading to their ultimate ruin.

My uncle survived liver failure, and entered a rehab program where he will hopefully succeed in overcoming his alcoholism. Miraculously, the mother I described recently quit drinking and has been sober for three months. She attributes her success to the support of her religion. However, these stories are rare compared to the many of pain and loss.

Taking all of these factors into account, alcohol runs the risk of ruining many lives in its deadly spiral. Not only does it damage one's health, but it hurts many others too. Should we continue to support an industry that has led to the ruin of millions? Consider the saying: “What parents use in moderation, children will use in excess.” Many are unconsciously paving the way for their child's future alcohol ­dependency.

We should avoid alcohol, not only for our protection, but also to ensure that our casual habit does not begin a dependency in another. Some may ask, “What's wrong with a little alcohol?” But I contend that's the wrong question. Instead, I encourage you to ask, “What's right with it?” As an anonymous writer once said: “We drank for joy and became miserable. We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. We drank ‘medicinally' and acquired health problems. We drank for confidence and became doubtful. We drank to make conversation easier and slurred our speech. We drank to forget and were forever haunted. We drank to cope with life and invited death.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 24 comments. Post your own!

ilovemycat10 said...
Dec. 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm:
i did not like this article. i liked it in the first paragraph, but when i got into the story, the story stopped. it just started telling facts. i didnt even finish reading this, because i was bored. i felt like i was reading a book on drugs. boring!!! :l
 
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rheameThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 4, 2013 at 7:41 am:
wonderful article !!!! please stop drinking people. "feel good " factor of a few minutes will kill you in seconds!! so please stop!!
 
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MellyBelly said...
May 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm:
My father is an alcoholic and his actions have not made me become a lover of alcohol. Yes I am not 18 so I can drink and I have a few here and there but I don't want it all the time so I have to disagree with you saying "parents drinking behaviour and favorable attitudes about drinking have been associated  with teens  continuing drinking." There may be a few like that, immature wise, but when you have to live with an alcoholic in your house everyday you don't want to touch alcohol. My... (more »)
 
MellyBelly replied...
May 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm :
now* 18 oops!
 
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StarryRoss said...
Dec. 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm:

hey guys, guess what...

DON'T DRINK!

Its stupid! Its just stupid! Why even ask about a little, why even try to see how buzzed you can get without getting drunk. IT'S. STUPID.

It doesn't make you cool, and if it does, you got one superficial, lousy group of friends. "Oh but its just fun." Well, okay, no one can stop you from some good wholesome "fun," but soon that line between drunk and buzzed begins to blur, and you're down a road you can't U-turn on. It doesn't even tas... (more »)

 
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swcricket98 said...
Dec. 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm:
I agree that alcohol should not be available for use by teenagers. The affects of this substance are much too strong to allow, even if we do trust ourselves and parents trust their children. We never know how tolerant our body is of alcohol until we try, and we should try when it is legal and when we are adults.
 
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smartguy said...
Dec. 1, 2011 at 3:08 am:
i want to know what will happen if we drink only a little amount of alchohol and what will happen if we take coacktails ? could you please tell me what are the affects of drinking alchohol and remaining drugs?
 
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smartguy said...
Dec. 1, 2011 at 3:05 am:
this is a very good article . i asked many ofmy friends to stopdrinking some stoped but remaining didnt ... they often ask me one question .....why should we stop drinking .... cant we control and drink only little amount of alchohol ? what will happen if we drink only a little amount of alchohol ...some take danderoues drugs too 
 
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nolle said...
Mar. 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm:

Hi!

I know drinking alcohol causes a lot of problems, like you stated in your article. But I think alcohol shouldn't be banned nor avoided. People should learn how to handle alcohol properly. You shouldn't tell teenagers to stay away from alcohol, this will only make it much more exciting to drink. My parents let me drink alcohol at home, they taught me how to deal with it. I got drunk , and now I know when to stop. I know so many people at school whose parents won't let them drink, an... (more »)

 
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reaver said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm:
drinking mess you up bad good article
 
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Amilia99 said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 6:58 pm:
Loved the article! You made a very good point and i completely agree would love to hear more from you about teens and DUI penalties.
 
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cheer4u said...
Jan. 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm:
wow very nice keep it up!
 
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Supriya said...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 9:26 am:
Very nice article! Keep writing..
 
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abby willow said...
Dec. 9, 2010 at 9:59 am:
I totally agree. The drinking age should stay as it is. I think that enough people already die from drinking and we don't need anymore.
 
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Tomboy said...
May 21, 2010 at 10:43 am:
I agree.  Great ending quote that totally makes sense.  I think that next time a friend or someones drunk their friend should video it.  that way then they can show their friend and maybe it will help show how embarresing they act while they're drunk.  theres a reason why your body doesnt like it, it wasn't supposed to exist!
 
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ceria_lokz said...
Apr. 3, 2010 at 8:07 pm:

frankly i think personally u make a good point.. And it doesnt really matter what age you are because young people these days think that drinking is cool when they dont realize the damage it can bring

 

 
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NeNe1 said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 8:37 am:
i think it depends on wat age u r in order 2 drink
 
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FlyleafFreak said...
Feb. 28, 2010 at 10:13 am:
Amen, from my personal experience, don't drink. It ruins your life and everybody you love lives too, more than you could ever know.
 
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ScoobyDoo This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 26, 2010 at 11:03 am:
My uncle (the one mentioned above) actually died earlier this year. He went back to alcohol...again...and his body couldn't handle it.
And people think they can play with fire...
 
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Caley This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 26, 2010 at 10:21 am:
I've had personal experience with this kind of thing, so I understand where you're coming from. You write with such heart on such important subject, keep it up. Our broken generation needs voices like yours; people like you are going to pull America up again.
 
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