NurseAsk Nurse Lisa

Alcohol

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a drug that is found in all alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, malt beverages, liquor, and homebrew. Alcohol is a depressant (or “downer”), meaning it slows parts of the brain and central nervous system while also changing the mental process. Alcohol is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating ingredient found in wine, beer, and spirits.

Local Laws and Youth Safety

One standard drink of alcohol is equal to: 12oz of beer at 5% alcohol, 5oz of table wine at 12% alcohol, 1.5oz (a “shot”) of liquor at 40% alcohol. In Alaska, people over 21 years of age can buy and drink alcohol legally. It is illegal for anyone to operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol, to provide alcohol to those under 21 years old, and to be intoxicated in most public places. Underage drinking is drinking alcohol before a person is legally old enough to buy and consume it. Remember laws are put in place to protect the health and well-being of young people.

Teens drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some teens want to experience new things, others feel pressured into drinking by peers, and some are looking for a way to deal with stress or other problems. Typically, drinking like makes things worse, not better.

For example, hangovers the next day after binge drinking (consuming more than 4 or 5 drinks in about 2 hours), feel awful! Also, being under the influence of alcohol can cause behaviors that people wouldn’t do if they were not drinking, like having sex without using condoms (can cause the spread of sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy), or driving cars, snowgos, or four-wheelers under the influence. What’s more, the use of substances, like alcohol, can influence violence in relationships. If violence already exists, it can make things worse. Sometimes people act in ways they normally wouldn’t act while under the influence of alcohol and other substances. For more visit loveisrespect.org.

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance of abuse among young people in America, and drinking while underage puts your health and safety at risk.

The Brain and The Body

Alcohol slows down various sections of the brain and central nervous system, which affects a person’s ability to control their behavior and bodily functions. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink is finished. Alcohol slows communication in the brain and acts as a depressant to the central nervous system, this causes slurred speech, blurry vision and difficulty with memory.

Alcohol and the Teenage Brain

When teens drink, alcohol affects the brain in the short-term, but repeated drinking can also impact the brain down the road, especially as the brain grows and develops.

Short-term consequences of intoxication (being “drunk”):

  • An intoxicated person has a harder time making good decisions.
  • A person is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or risky.
  • A person may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • A person is less likely to recognize potential danger.

Research shows that drinking during the teen years can interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:

  • Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
  • Increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

Alcohol and the Teenage Body

People who drink are affected even before they show signs of being drunk, especially when it comes to decision-making abilities.

At first, alcohol causes people to feel upbeat and excited, but this is a temporary feeling. If drinking continues, the effects on the body–and the potential risks–multiply. Here’s what can happen:

  • Inhibitions and memory: People may say and do things that they will regret later, or possibly not remember at all. Inhibitions are lost, leading to poor decision making.
  • Decision-making skills: When they drink, individuals are more likely to be impulsive. They may be at greater risk of having an alcohol-related traffic crash, getting into fights, or making unwise decisions about sex.
  • Coordination and physical control: When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.
  • Death: Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to death. If people drink too much, they will eventually get sleepy and pass out. Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means they could vomit and choke, or stop breathing completely.

Outcomes

It is easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects will last. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours.

Get Help

For general resources about relationships, sex, wellness and more, please do a search on the Get Answers page.

Are you in immediate danger?

Call 911 or your local police. If not in an immediate threat, please view resources on the Get Help page.