Most people know the effects of drugs and alcohol. People have been telling you to “just say no” for as long as you can remember. Of course you understand that there are dangers involved in using drugs and alcohol, but what they won’t tell you in school is that sometimes, nothing bad happens right away. You may even feel like you’re having fun. This makes it much easier to ignore the consequences that may result from your choice.
The fact is, the more often you use drugs and alcohol, the more likely something bad will happen. That’s why choosing not to use drugs or alcohol really is the best choice. And most importantly — it is a choice.
Your friends may use drugs or alcohol, but always remember that you have a choice to simply say, “No thanks, I’m good.”
Drugs and alcohol affect every person’s body differently, so what may turn out OK for your friend one time might be extremely dangerous to you. If you’re afraid that you won’t fit in, don’t worry. True friends accept your choices and don’t force you to participate in something against your will. It may sound cliché, but it’s true — keeping an image to fit in isn’t worth the risk of hurting yourself.
Alcohol in particular may seem acceptable to you and your friends, since it’s a legal substance when you’re 21 or older. But no matter what age you are, alcohol affects your judgment and lowers your inhibitions, and might cause you to do something you’ll immediately regret when you’re sober — like having unprotected sex or driving drunk. It also affects your coordination and can bring on dangerous situations such as drinking and driving. And these are just a few of the short-term effects! Alcohol can also cause bodily damage and increase the risk of contracting disease. Here are a few of the many dangers of drinking alcohol:
- Alcohol affects virtually every organ in the body, and prolonged use can lead to numerous preventable diseases, including alcoholism.
- Alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, which can lead to risky behaviors, including unprotected sex.
- Alcohol decreases coordination, slows reaction time, dulls senses, and blocks memory.
- In most U.S. states, alcohol is illegal to buy or possess if you are under the age of 21.
- One 12-ounce beer has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of whiskey or a 5-ounce glass of wine.
- Wine coolers have just as much alcohol as a 12-ounce beer. One glass of clear malt can give a teenager a .02 on a breathalyzer test, which in some states is enough for anyone under the age of 21 to lose their drivers license and receive a fine.
- Drinking increases the risk of injury. Car crashes, falls, burns, drowning, and suicide are all linked to alcohol and other drug use.
- Alcohol can cause acne breakouts, give you bad breath, and make you gain weight.
- Alcohol can make you clumsy and slur your speech, make you feel sick, and make you throw up.
- Too much alcohol can overload the system and can lead to death.
Drugs also have many negative effects. Depending on the type, drugs can cause you to feel depressed, lonely, or anxious. Clues that indicate someone may be using drugs include:
- Change in overall attitude or personality
- Changes of friends: avoidance of old friends, hanging out with known drug users
- Change in activities: loss of interest in things that were once important; spending time in hangouts they would not have gone to before
- Drop in school or work performance; skips or is late to school or work
- Changes in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
- Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
- Lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, discipline
- Violent temper or temper tantrums
- Moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
- Excessive need for privacy
- Secretive or suspicious behavior
- Dishonesty; stealing
- Unexplained need for money; can’t explain where money goes
- Change in personal grooming habits
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Both drugs and alcohol can lead to dangerous and life-threatening addictions. If you or a friend is experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol, get help now. Contact your local Safe Place program or speak to someone you trust. You can also contact the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-RUNAWAY.
Websites to Visit
Check out these websites for more information about drugs & alcohol:
- National Clearinghouse for Alcohol & Drug Information
- What’s Driving You? - Information About Alcohol
- Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Youth Tobacco Prevention
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- Phoenix House – Drug & Alcohol Treatment and Prevention Services
- Alateen – Support for teens whose lives are affected by someone else’s drinking
Statistics on Underage Drinking (Source: CDC):
- During 2003, about 22% percent of high school students smoked cigarettes, down from about 36% percent in 1997.
- Lifetime cigarette use among high school students was about 58% percent in 2003, down from about 70% percent in 1999.
- Frequent smoking declined to about 10% percent of youth in 2003.
- White students were significantly more likely than black and Hispanic students to report current smoking.
- More white female students than black and Hispanic female students smoke reported current smoking.
- More Hispanic female than black female students reported current smoking.
- The prevalence of smoking was not significantly different among white, black, and Hispanic male students.
Fast Facts About Underage Drinking (Source: www.MADD.org):
- Teen alcohol use kills about 6000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and one out of three of those is alcohol related.
- Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash.
- High school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of school or believe good grades are not important.
- Every minute, one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash.
How Does Alcohol Affect the World of the Child? (Source: Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free):
- Alcohol is the number one drug of choice among youth in the United States.
- Adolescents who abuse alcohol may remember 10% less of what they have learned than those who don’t drink.
- Almost 20% of 8th graders and 42% of 10th graders have been drunk at least once.