Alcohol & young people
You & your body
Alcohol is a type of a drug that slows down the central nervous system. Drinking has the potential to make people feel sick, anxious and even aggressive.
There are three main parts of the brain that become affected when drinking alcohol – the extent to which these parts are affected will ultimately depend on how much alcohol you are consuming.
Cerebrum – controls functions like reasoning, emotions, vision and recognition. After one or two drinks, inhibitions are lowered and judgement may be affected. As more alcohol is drunk, vision and speech may become impaired.
Cerebellum – controls coordination of movements. After a few more drinks balance and reflexes will be affected. People may experience confusion and memory blackouts are a possibility.
Medulla – controls survival functions such as breathing and heartbeat. If so much alcohol has been drank that it reaches the medulla, the brain loses its ability to control breathing and the heart rate drops. This can result in death.
Also, have you ever wondered why people get a hangover after drinking alcohol – it is due to the brain being deprived of water and glucose, which is the brain’s food.
Apart from the physical affects of drinking alcohol, there are other negative consequences associated with alcohol. For example, you can also become more susceptible to dangers, such as risk of injury, verbal or physical abuse and unsafe or unwanted sex.
For more tips on body effects view the ALAC website.
Experimenting with alcohol
While some young people choose not to drink at all, many will experiment with alcohol before you reach the legal age. It is important that if you do decide to drink, it is a decision you have made on your own.
If you choose to drink there are a number of things you can do to ensure you drink in a responsible and controlled manner, such as:
- know the standard – know how much alcohol is in what drink so you are aware of the amount of alcohol you are consuming and therefore know when you have had enough
- thirsty? – alcohol does not quench your thirst but in fact makes you more dehydrated. If you are thirsty drink water as this will help prevent dehydration.
- drink slowly – take sips and not gulps. Put your glass down between sips
- eat before or while you are drinking
- One drink at a time – do not let people top up your drinks
- pace yourself – try having a ‘spacer’, a non-alcoholic drink every second or third drink
- stay busy – play pool or dance – don’t just sit and drink
- be assertive – do not be pressured into drinking more than you want or intend to.
Also, remember there are legal consequences for those who drink before the legal age.
Having a few drinks at a party or with friends can be fun. However, when people don’t know when to stop and end up drinking too much, it can cause them to do some fairly embarrassing and even dangerous things. Some examples include
- becoming aggressive with strangers and even friends and family
- becoming over-emotional
- losing control and injuring yourself, and maybe others
- being rejected by friends and potential partners
- unplanned sexual behaviour, which could lead to unwanted pregnancy or disease.
It’s likely that we’ve all seen someone do one or some of those things. Fortunately, most people who do drink will do so in a controlled manner, such as sticking to the guidelines outlined by the National Health and Medical Research Council and just being aware of how you react to alcohol as an individual.