Some common reasons people give for why they drink alcohol in social situations include:
- I feel more outgoing.
- It loosens me up.
- I have more fun.
Lots of factors play into people’s expectations of alcohol’s supposed power to make them more social—from advertising to teen party movies, the alcohol industry has a lot to gain from making people believe positive things about alcohol.
In fact, research shows that a person’s expectations of how they will feel after drinking alcohol may have more to do with their experience, and how much fun they have, than the alcohol itself. Although alcohol does create an initial “buzz,” it also slows a person down and makes them feel tired.
A recent study looked at college students’ expectations about alcohol and how those expectations influenced how much the students drank. Part of the experiment involved giving some students alcoholic drinks and others non-alcoholic drinks. Neither group knew which type they received. In the end, students had a hard time identifying whether they were drinking alcohol or not.
And guess what? Those who consumed non-alcoholic drinks had just as much fun as the ones who consumed alcohol.
This means that if you go out expecting to feel social and outgoing, you likely will feel that way, regardless of whether you drink alcohol—or not.
Alcohol companies have tapped into a growing market to introduce underage drinkers to their products, on the basis that kids who acquire a taste for alcoholic drinks early are more likely to get hooked. While it is still illegal for teens to purchase them, “alcopops,” are flavored beer and vodka drinks that contain caffeine, juices, and other flavors. These drinks often sport names like Moonshot, JungleJoose, and Bacardi Breezer Watermelon, to fool you into believing they are harmless flavored drinks.
But Drinker Beware…
Alcopops may contain 4-7% alcohol or more, higher than the average can of beer containing a little over 3% alcohol content. Alcohol is a depressant, and so can make you tired and slow your brain and reaction time. That affects your ability to make decisions and to act or think properly—it also makes you thirsty, so you keep drinking. Now throw in a strong jolt of caffeine, such as you find in typical energy drinks. While the alcohol in alcopops tends to make you sleepy, the caffeine in them keeps you feeling “up.” Sugar, the major ingredient in many juice drinks and flavorings, also stimulates your brain to give you a short-term energy surge. Now confused from the caffeine, alcohol, and sugar mix, your brain gets tricked in sometimes lethal ways because these drinks don’t taste like alcohol and make you feel less intoxicated than alcohol alone. This leaves you even less aware of how much you’ve consumed and more likely to binge drink.
What’s the Big Deal?
The big deal here is that combining a depressant (alcohol) with stimulants (caffeine and sugar) sends mixed signals to your brain, which can have long-term consequences. So digest the facts before you pop a top: drinking alcohol—including alcopops—can be quite dangerous.
In the past 5 years, Danny McCoy has told this story to thousands of teens: When he was 19 years old, he drove home from a fraternity party after a night of drinking. He fell asleep for only a few seconds. In those moments, he hit a utility pole, killing his 17-year-old passenger, Alexandra Everhart.
Danny feels the horror and guilt born of that night every day of his life. In a newspaper interview after one high school assembly, McCoy says, "I'm telling you all, you do not want to put that much pain and destruction in this world."
Unfortunately, this story is all too common. Teens who’ve been partying late, whose judgment has been impaired by drugs or alcohol, or who are just plain tired, decide to take the wheel. Every year, about 3,500 American teens die in car crashes, and 22% of drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes were drinking. Beyond those lives lost, countless more—those of their parents, siblings, and friends—are devastated as a result.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s also the month for high school proms, college admissions, and spring fever—all of which might make you and your friends eager to celebrate. However, teens are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol because their brains and bodies are still developing.
Danny McCoy can never bring Alexandra Everhart back. All he can do is tell his story and hope that it causes at least one person to make the responsible decision not to drive impaired.
Check out these four tips to avoid drinking and driving. Do you have other strategies? Tell us in comments.
At NIDA’s Drug Facts Chat Day, we get great questions from teens all over the country about drugs. Here’s one from “hhentze,” representing Junction City High School in Oregon:
What drug is most often used by teens in the USA?
Every year since 1975, the Monitoring the Future Study has surveyed teens to better understand their drug use rates, attitudes, and beliefs. Looking over the past 10 years, data show that more and more teens are saying no to drugs, period. They are not even trying them once.
Still, to answer the question, statistics from 2009 (PDF, 362.76KB) show that the drug most often abused by teens in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades is alcohol, followed by marijuana. The third most abused drug varies by grade—for 8th graders, it’s inhalants. For 10th and 12th graders, it’s Vicodin (a prescription medication for pain). Here’s a little more info:
So, even though alcohol might be the drug most abused by teens, the good news is that the number of teens who report drinking in the last 30 days has gradually declined by as much as 40% over the past 35 years. You go, Gen Y!
Seems marijuana use is slowly creeping upwards after a steady decline that lasted almost 10 years. What’s up with that? The answer may have to do with the fact that young people are seeing marijuana as less risky than before and are more accepting of its use in general.
- Inhalants and Vicodin
With both inhalants and Vicodin, the rates of abuse among teens are about the same as they have been for the past 2-3 years. That’s pretty positive, especially since the study only recently started looking at trends in prescription drugs.
Carry out your own mini-study and see what drugs friends, relatives, or teachers think are most often abused by teens. Feel free to share what you found out with us in the comments. Spread the word, and help set the record straight.
Have you ever wondered why you have to be 16 to get your driver’s license or 18 to vote or 21 to legally drink alcohol?
It’s partly because your brain is not ready to take on these responsibilities, since your brain is not fully developed when you’re a teen.
During the teen years, essential parts of the brain are still forming—like the prefrontal cortex, which allows people to weigh the pros and cons of situations instead of acting on impulse. This is one reason why teens are generally more likely to take risks than adults.
For example, with alcohol, teens may be less able to judge when to stop drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that each year, more than 4,600 alcohol-related deaths occur among those less than 21 years old—that is way too many.
Research shows that alcohol and other drugs change the brain’s structure and how it works in the short and long term. In the short term, drugs affect your brain’s judgment and decision-making abilities, while long-term use causes brain changes that can set people up for addiction and other problems. The brains of people who become addicted get altered so that drugs are now their top priority—and they will compulsively seek and use drugs even though doing so brings devastating consequences for their lives and for those who care about them.
Do yourself a favor and use your brain to make smart choices, reach your goals, and achieve your full potential in life.
You’re going to an after-prom party, and your parents ask if the host’s parents will be there. You may say, “yes,” and it may be true, but you also secretly may know that they will allow underage guests to drink alcohol. You think this is okay, because, after all, an adult is there.
Not only is it always illegal for people under age 21 to drink alcohol—no matter where you are or who you got it from—but the adults serving underage people may also be breaking the law.
More than 30 states have passed “social host” laws that punish adults (anyone age 21+) who permit underage drinking on their property. This means that even if the adult who owns the property didn’t supply the alcohol, they can still be liable.
Tell us: What do you think when adults are willing to give underage people alcohol?
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t make good decisions because none of your friends agreed? Well, you’re definitely not alone. Take a look at these teens who wanted to be healthier and took a stand on teen alcohol and drug use by joining the Illinois Drug Education Alliance (IDEA)—no matter what their friends thought.
Even on Halloween, this group of teens ditched the typical party scene and got creative. They went trick-or-treating, but with a twist. Instead of asking for candy, they gave out brain-shaped stress balls and educated people on the harmful effects alcohol has on the teen brain.
“We all experience peer pressure, but not all peer pressure has to be negative. IDEA gives me a circle of friends who share my choice for a healthy lifestyle. Together, we encourage our peers to make smarter choices.”
—IDEA Youth Board member
Student members of the IDEA team, known as the Youth Board, work together to positively influence healthy decision-making in their schools and in their communities. They want every teen to understand that underage drinking isn’t the norm and that not everyone is doing it.
The Sara Bellum Blog had the opportunity to interview a few members of the IDEA Youth Board to get the 411 on their activities. You might be inspired by these ordinary teens who use their time in extraordinary ways.
Sara Bellum Blog (SBB): When was the Youth Board formed and why?
IDEA Youth Board (YB): IDEA was created in 1982 by a group of parents who quickly realized that the best way to reach teens is through other teens. At first, the board consisted of sons and daughters of IDEA members, but it quickly grew to include youth from all over Illinois who share a passion for the cause.
SBB: Who makes up the Youth Board and what led them to join?
IDEA YB: Most youth members are in high school, but some are in middle school. At our largest, we had 70 kids on the board! Usually we have between 20 and 30 members every year.
SBB: What are some of the main reasons youth join and stay on the board?
IDEA YB: Some of us get involved through the county; others through schools and friends. Many are leaders in their schools and communities. But we all share a common belief in what we do. That’s why we have an Alumni Board. Some youth love it so much that they can’t leave IDEA. They love to help us out however they can, even though they’re in college and busy with work. Everyone at IDEA is very active and involved in our activities.
SBB: What advice can you offer to teens who feel alone when trying to make healthy lifestyle choices?
IDEA YB: We tell them that there are other groups of people and friends who are happy without turning to drugs or alcohol. That’s who you want to hang out with.
SBB: How involved is the Youth Board in IDEA’s events?
IDEA YB: Teens are a crucial part. We get together for regular meetings and brainstorm ideas. We are there throughout the entire process, from development to implementation. We love to see our ideas unfold into programs.
SBB: How can teens in other states get involved?
IDEA YB: We would love to work with youth and organizations in other states. Anyone can visit the Web site, see what we’re doing, and fill out an application to join. Soon, we’ll have toolkits available that anyone can use! We’re always looking for youth who want to actively help and are passionate about the cause.
So, that’s the scoop on the Illinois Drug Education Alliance. Check out their Web site!
How Many Teens Actually Smoke, Drink, or Do Drugs?
It’s natural to be curious about your peers—especially when it comes to things that we know can be dangerous, like alcohol and drug use. You’ve probably heard rumors of kids drinking beer at a party or may have a friend who smokes cigarettes.
You may wonder how many teens actually smoke, drink, or do drugs. It’s a question we hear frequently from teens. During NIDA’s 2011 Drug Facts Chat Day, students from the around the country asked NIDA scientists questions such as:
- “How many teens smoke every year?”
- “Has the number of people who abuse drugs increased or decreased in the past 5 years? And why?”
- “What percent of teens has tried drugs?”
- “How many kids are doing drugs?”
In December 2011, NIDA released the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, and it seems that more teens are making better decisions when it comes to smoking and alcohol use, but not so much when it comes to using marijuana and abusing prescription drugs.
Here’s a glimpse at the most recent trends in teen drug and alcohol use.
Cigarette and Alcohol Use at Historic Low
Teen smoking has declined in all three grades included in the study—grades 8, 10, and 12. Still, almost 19 percent of 12th graders reported current (past-month) cigarette use.
This decline shows that more teens realize the harm smoking does to your body and are making the decision not to start. Also, teens’ attitudes about smoking have changed. They increasingly prefer to date nonsmokers and believe smoking to be a dirty habit.
Likewise, among nearly all grades, trends over the past 5 years showed significant decreases in alcohol use—including first-time use, occasional use, daily use, and binge drinking. As with smoking, this decline may be the result of more teens understanding the risk of drinking alcohol and disapproving of this behavior.
Marijuana Use Continues To Rise
Unlike cigarettes and alcohol, marijuana use is increasing. Among 12th graders, 36.4 percent reported using marijuana at least once in the past year, up from 31.5 percent 5 years ago. This accompanies a decrease in the number of 12th graders who perceive that smoking marijuana is harmful. For example, only 22.7 percent of high school seniors saw great risk in smoking marijuana occasionally, compared to 25.9 percent 5 years ago.
Of course, we know the risks: marijuana can affect memory, judgment, and perception, and it can harm a teen’s developing brain.
Prescription Drug Abuse Remains Steady
Prescription drug abuse hasn’t changed much since 2010. Abuse of the opioid painkiller Vicodin and the nonmedical use of Adderall and Ritalin, stimulants meant to treat ADHD, remained about the same as last year. Also, the abuse of the opioid painkiller OxyContin remained steady for the past 5 years across all 3 grades surveyed.
To drive this trend downward, NIDA recently launched PEERx, a prescription drug abuse awareness campaign that gives teens science-based information about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body.
When teens understand the health risks of abusing drugs, they do it less. So, tell us, how would you convince your peers that marijuana use and prescription drug abuse are harmful?
These estimates come from the Monitoring the Future Study's national surveys of approximately 47,000 students in about 400 secondary schools each year. The survey was conducted in classrooms earlier this year. View all of the 2011 data.
Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly used drug by youth—more than all illegal drugs combined? AND that teen alcohol use kills more than 5,000 people each year?
You have the power to change that! MADD created the Power of You(th) program to empower teens like you to influence your peers and younger kids not to drink before age 21, and never to get in the car with someone who’s been drinking. Use your power to take a stand against underage drinking.
The Power of You(th) is about teens making a difference in their communities by sharing how underage drinking is especially risky. There are a lot of ways to get involved:
- Participate in the Power of You(th) Video Contest.* Each year, MADD holds a video contest and asks teens to create a 1-minute or less video telling the story of why underage drinking isn’t cool. This year’s winner got an iPad 2!
Check out the winning video, created by 17-year-old Jason Girouard from Brimfield, Massachusetts:
Be on the lookout in fall 2013 for the next Power of You(th) video contest!
- Download The 411 on Teen Drinking booklet. Learn about underage drinking by downloading The 411 on Teen Drinking, created by MADD and National Presenting Sponsor State Farm. The free booklet tells you how alcohol affects teen brains differently than it does adult brains and how to talk to your parents about alcohol.
- Pledge to stand up against underage drinking. The Power of You(th) pledge is a promise not to drink under age 21 or ride in a car with someone who’s been drinking.
* NIDA is not a sponsor of the MADD Power of You(th) contest, nor is it associated with MADD Power of You(th).
Jan Withers joined MADD in 1992, after her 15-year-old daughter, Alisa Joy, was killed by an underage drinker who chose to drive after consuming numerous alcoholic beverages. Ms. Withers first volunteered by sharing her story and lobbying for tougher legislation—she wanted to make a difference by helping to stop this 100-percent preventable violent crime. Now as MADD’s National President, she speaks to lawmakers across the country about the importance of legislation requiring ignition interlocks (or “in-car breathalyzers”) for all drunk-driving offenders, a key part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving. Ms. Withers continues to raise awareness for MADD’s victim support services—even leading a monthly support group—while also expanding the reach of MADD’s underage drinking prevention programs.
Lots of teens have questions about drugs. Each year, NIDA scientists spend a whole day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.
At the last Drug Facts Chat Day, “hbishop” asked:
Can a baby die from drugs that a pregnant mom is using?
To answer your question, it is possible. As one NIDA scientist put it, “We know that drugs of abuse can cross the placenta and reach the fetus. So, drugs used by the mother definitely can affect the baby’s health and can even cause long-term harm many years later. That is why doctors recommend that pregnant mothers not smoke or use alcohol or other illicit drugs.”
Anything a pregnant mother puts in her body the baby also takes in. Exposure to different drugs can harm the baby in many different ways. Like—
Smoking during pregnancy can cause slowed fetal growth, decreased birth weights, and even behavioral problems.
Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children with FAS may be born small; have problems eating, sleeping, seeing, and hearing; and have trouble learning and getting along with others. NO amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
Using cocaine and marijuana during pregnancy can lead to children having attention, language, and learning problems, as well as behavioral issues. Mothers who use alcohol, tobacco, or any illicit drug are setting their children up for potential lifelong problems or even death. The best thing a pregnant mom can do is talk to her doctor about which foods to eat and vitamins to take to make sure her child gets a healthy start.
You’ve probably heard how deadly it is to drink and drive—or to get in the car with someone else who has been drinking. But the dangers of alcohol go beyond drunk driving. Did you know that of all alcohol-related teen deaths, only about one-third of those are traffic related?
Alcohol poisoning and suicide are also major causes of alcohol-related teen deaths (9% and 15%, respectively), but an even bigger cause may surprise you. A third of teen drinkers who die alcohol-related deaths are victims of homicide.
Why the connection between murder and alcohol? Under the influence, people do lots of things they wouldn’t normally do. That includes acting on emotional impulses like rage, jealousy, or sadness.
And people who have been drinking find themselves in situations they would normally avoid, like an argument with a classmate, boyfriend, or girlfriend. For instance, the FBI estimates that over 1,400 homicides in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010 resulted from a “brawl due to influence of alcohol.”
Alcohol clouds a person’s judgment and decision-making skills. When that happens, it’s often impossible to predict the consequences.
Tell us in comments: Do these stats surprise you? If your parents talked to you about the dangers of drinking and driving, did they also mention the other dangers of alcohol? Share with us your tips to help your fellow teens avoid drinking alcohol!
Everyone knows that many of the fans of football’s biggest game are there for the commercials. Companies selling all types of goods—from cars to snack foods to insurance—pay top dollar (more than $2 million for 30 seconds in 2011) to spread the word about their products.
Alcohol companies are part of this media frenzy, and their messages reach all members of the TV audience—from adults to teens to young children.
Even adults have a hard time separating the myths of marketing from the truth, so see if you can figure out how the company is trying to make you want what they’re selling. Below are several real-life examples to test your skills.
2011 Super Bowl Alcohol Ads
During the Green Bay Packers’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the audience saw five alcohol ads. Here are four:
The Ad: A woman and man have won a home makeover and the only change made was to put a bucket of Bud Light on the kitchen counter. The “host” of the home makeover show states that they gave the room “a fun vibe” and “clearly this is the room people want to hang out in.”
The Message: This one’s pretty obvious. Alcohol = fun = partying with more friends.
The Ad: A friend dog-sits for someone and is invited to drink the Bud Light in the freezer. Cut to a party scene with lots of attractive people being served by dogs, who have gone up on two legs to become waiters and bartenders.
The Message: This ad uses humor as its main vehicle. The dogs are funny to watch, and while the scene is absurd—obviously a dog could never serve someone a beer—the implication is that alcohol is a fun, light-hearted, even “fantastical” treat.
The Ad: Movie star Adrien Brody serenades a roomful of women with a romantic tune—only for the ladies to find out that he’s actually singing to a glass of beer.
The Message: Alcohol is romantic. This ad may appeal to women and teen girls more than men, as the ladies in the room clearly swoon for the singer.
The Ad: It’s the Wild, Wild West, and a villainous cowboy enters a saloon and threateningly asks the bartender for a “Bud.” Upon hearing the bar is out of that particular drink, the cowboy fingers his holstered gun until a deliveryman—who arrives in a wagon pulled by the ever-popular Budweiser Clydesdales—enters with an icy case of Budweiser. The scary cowboy starts to sing and soon the whole bar is harmoniously singing along.
The Message: Lack of alcohol is a serious mistake, a critical missing piece. And once alcohol is produced, all hostility melts away—implying that alcohol is a cure for problems and that it brings people together.
To cut to the truth about alcohol, check out The Cool Spot, a Web site for teens from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- What’s the purpose of the ad—who created the message and why?
- What words, images, or sounds are used to make the message appealing?
- How does the message make me feel?
St. Patrick’s Day, once a religious holiday that celebrated the patron saint of Ireland, has become a day for revelry and partying. In fact, it has become one of the biggest drinking days of the year.
Binge drinking—sucking down 4 or 5 drinks within about 2 hours—seems to be encouraged, with many bars hosting day-long parties and serving green beer and Irish whiskey.
Binge Drinking: What’s the Harm?
While downing pints of green beer may be a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for some, it’s really not a good one for your brain. Research shows that binge drinking damages the brain, even if you do it only once in a while. Young people are at special risk, since their brains are still developing—growing and making new connections until their mid-20s.
Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning and also affects the frontal cortex, an area involved with judgment, thinking, memory, and feeling.
Drinking and Driving Is Never Okay
Binge drinking also can have serious consequences after the party’s over. If you’re driving under the influence, or riding with someone who’s drunk, you’ll need a ton of “Irish luck” to get home safely.
St. Patrick’s Day is one of the deadliest on the road. More than 1 in 3 drivers involved in fatal crashes have a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit—and of course, no amount of alcohol is legal for those under age 21.
In 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started a program with the slogan, “Kiss Me, I’m Sober,” to keep “buzzed” drivers off the road on St. Patrick’s Day. The first and most important step is to choose a designated driver who will not drink alcohol during the festivities.
St. Patrick’s Day is meant for light-hearted fun, and you don’t have to drink alcohol to enjoy it. What are some ideas for celebrating the greenest holiday without drinking?
Middle and high school teens have many choices when it comes to extracurricular activities. Some will choose a team sport like basketball, volleyball, football, or softball, while others may choose more individual-type sports like track, golf, tennis, or swimming.
Either way, being an athlete can be a positive experience—it teaches the importance of cooperation and practice, and how to win and lose gracefully—and it helps keep your body healthy. A recent study reports it may also influence decisions about using drugs like cigarettes, marijuana, or alcohol—but the news is not all good.
The good news is that researchers found that students who participate in team sports or exercise regularly report much less cigarette smoking than students not involved in sports. Also, fewer student athletes used marijuana.
The bad news is that the same study showed the reverse when it comes to drinking alcohol—that student athletes were much more likely to drink alcohol than non-athletes. This may be because team sports often involve alcohol—while watching the event or celebrating afterwards. That’s why beer companies are major sponsors of pro sports teams.
Drugs and Alcohol Can Slow You Down
By now, most of us know that smoking cigarettes affects athletes’ abilities in several ways, causing problems with breathing and endurance, for example. And marijuana can compromise your balance, perception, and memory, making it hard to be physically or mentally at your best in competition.
Bottom line: Your body and brain may not respond the way you need them to after you use drugs or drink alcohol.
Knowing the Facts Leads to Winning Choices
Whether you play sports or not, making healthy choices is up to you. So think about this: Are you more likely to drink or smoke if your friends do? How does being part of a team or group influence you?
I'm sure you've heard that abusing alcohol hurts your health. But how many years of drinking do you think it takes to visibly affect your brain? Ten years? Twenty?
It turns out that it doesn't take that long at all—in fact, scientists can already see changes in the brains of teenagers who drink.
In a new research study, Professor Susan Tapert of the University of California at San Diego used an imaging machine called an MRI to scan the brains of teens who binge drink—defined as drinking 4 or 5 (or more) drinks in a couple of hours. Dr. Tapert found that the "white matter" in their brains—the part that transmits signals, like a television cable or a computer USB cord—was abnormal when compared with the white matter of teens who don't binge drink. Transmitting signals is a big part of what the brain does, so affecting the white matter in this way could also affect thinking, learning, and memory.
The really scary part is that these teens weren't alcoholics, and they didn't drink every day. All they did (to be considered "binge drinkers") was drink at least four (for women) or five (for men) drinks in one sitting, at least one time during the previous three months.
How could it be possible for just a few sessions of heavy drinking to affect the white matter of the brain? Well, science has shown that alcohol can poison brain cells and can alter the brain's white matter in adult alcoholics. Dr. Tapert thinks that teenagers' brains are even more susceptible this way. She says, "because the brain is still developing during adolescence, there has been concern that it may be more vulnerable to high doses of alcohol."
Many questions still remain, including how long it takes before these changes occur, and how much they affect the function of the brain. To figure this out, scientists would have to look at the binge drinkers' brains before and after they started drinking. That way, they can tell if the differences might have already been there before the teens started drinking. It's possible that having abnormal white matter in the brain somehow increases the chance of being a binge drinker. In order to answer that question, Dr. Tapert says they need to do longer studies that follow teens' brain growth over time.
The bottom line? If you're a teen, drinking to the point of getting drunk could damage the white matter of your brain—even if you do it only once in a while.
Find out more through the following resources:
- SAMHSA Fact Sheet on Binge Drinking
- NIH Fact Sheet on Underage Drinking (PDF, 305 KB)
- USCD News Release: Binge Drinking May Hamper Information Relay System in Teen Brain
- Dr. Tapert's Study: Altered White Matter Integrity in Adolescent Binge Drinkers
- NIAAA's Rethinking Drinking Web page
Mean Girls…or Violent Girls? A recent national survey (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that more than one-quarter (26.7%) of girls age 12 to 17 reported engaging in some kind of violent behavior in the last year. Whaaat? There’s more…in this age group:
- 18.6% got into a serious fight at school or work in the past 12 months.
- 14.1% participated in a group-against-group fight.
- 5.7% attacked others with the intent to hurt them seriously.
So what does this have to do with drugs? The study also found that violence and drug use are linked: girls who engaged in violent behaviors were two to three times more likely to have binged on alcohol or used marijuana or other illicit drugs in the past month. Girls engaging in violent behavior were also more likely to report missing school and getting bad grades. To read more about the study, visit SAMHSA News.
For many Americans, celebrating the Fourth of July includes fireworks, parades, sparklers, and backyard picnics. Alongside the hotdogs and potato salad, though, usually sit bottles of beer.
Alcohol is often a part of our cultural celebrations. When someone gets married, we toast the happy couple with champagne. Many people binge drink on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo. Wherever someone is celebrating, chances are, alcohol is there.
Statistics PDF [138.44 KB] show that the Fourth of July is no exception. Teens and adults alike can end up in unhealthy situations from celebrating with alcohol. During the holiday weekend of July 3–5, 2009, an average of 942 ER visits occurred per day related to alcohol use by people under age 21—two-thirds by young men, which is double the usual number for this group.
When people see others around them drinking alcohol, it can seem like alcohol is harmless. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study shows that in general, most 12th graders don’t see binge drinking on weekends PDF [1.64 MB] as being very risky. The study also shows that such thinking makes drinking alcohol more likely.
In fact, alcohol is illegal for teens and can alter the developing brain. Further, drinking heavily can lower inhibitions and open the door to taking more risks—such as driving or riding with someone when you really shouldn’t be.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Fourth of July holiday period (July 2–6) is particularly deadly. During the 2010 holiday, 392 people were killed in car crashes, 39% involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, which qualifies as a DUI offense.
This Fourth of July, set the example for your friends: Opt for a cold lemonade, and stay safe.
Check out these resources about alcohol and underage drinking:
Okay, say you’re at a party. The friends you came with have been drinking, but you haven’t. When it’s time to head home, you’re nervous—you’ve heard all about drunk driving and how dangerous it is. So, what would you do to protect yourself and your friends? Do you have a plan to deal with situations like this?
Now, what would you do if your friends had been smoking pot instead of drinking? It turns out “drugged driving” can be just as dangerous. Someone who’s been smoking pot or doing other drugs puts everyone at risk, including themselves, when they get behind the wheel. They have slower reflexes and so can’t respond as well in an emergency. In fact, if you look at car crashes where the driver is killed, about 1 in 5 involves drugs other than alcohol (like marijuana).
Usually, drugged drivers have been drinking alcohol, too—making them doubly dangerous on the road. Research shows that driving under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol is riskier than with alcohol or marijuana alone.
Look, it’s hard to go against the group. But the last thing we want to do is see our friends get hurt, arrested, or even killed. So, what can we do?
Here are some ideas:
- Stay smart and speak up. Remember that the effects of marijuana and alcohol last for hours, so even if your friends haven’t had a drink in a while, it could still be dangerous for them to drive. If you are in a healthy state of mind and have your driver’s licence on you, ask for the keys and get the group home safely.
- Find another ride. Try to find another sober friends to give you a lift.
- Call someone to pick you up. Okay, so you might not want to call Mom or Dad to get you from a party; but chances are, they’ll be happier that you called them rather than put yourself in a dangerous situation. You also could call another family member.
- Crash at the host’s house. If possible, wait it out until morning and stay put. Just make sure to let someone know where you are and that you are safe.
The best advice: Plan ahead. If you know people will be drinking, pick a “designated driver” before you head out. Better yet, throw your own booze-free bash!
Read more facts and stats about impaired driving.
Many of the movies teens like the most have this in common: A group of young people go to parties, binge drink, get in trouble, or narrowly escape—all in the name of comedy. Hugely successful movies like the American Pie series, 2007’s Superbad, and the recent Project X all follow this formula.
And it’s not just “party movies” that highlight teen drinking. Even Harry Potter is not immune to controversy when it comes to alcohol.
Many different factors may influence teens’ decisions to drink alcohol—like whether their friends do—but a recent study found that watching a lot of movies that feature alcohol actually doubles the chances that young teens will start drinking and increases the chances that they will move on to binge drinking as well.
On Screen vs. Reality
Most movies centered around teen partying and drinking glamorize the party scene, making it seem like the craziest, most epic stuff will happen. On screen, it becomes a memorable adventure from which you return home safely with the story of a lifetime.
Real life is different. Underage drinking, and especially binge drinking, is not glamorous or funny. It’s about doing something stupid and embarrassing yourself in front of your friends. It’s about throwing up in someone’s car on the way home and having a massive hangover the next morning. Even worse, it’s about getting alcohol poisoning and making dangerous decisions like driving drunk.
Alcohol Featured on Purpose
Teens should always be aware of why certain things may be happening on TV or in the movies and become “media-savvy.”
The next time you see alcohol on screen, ask yourself why the movie makers put it there. Are they trying to make you laugh? Does the situation make it seem “cool” and like “everybody’s doing it”?
Does seeing actors drinking alcohol on screen make you more likely to try it? Do you feel the same way if one of the characters smokes cigarettes?
Learn some of the things you should think about when you watch TV or movies.
As a public health analyst at NIDA, one of my jobs is to look at data and help get information out to the public. When I heard that about 1 in 10 high school seniors had used the pain medicine Vicodin last year without a prescription, I knew there was a problem. Many people, and not just teens, think that because doctors are the ones who typically prescribe these drugs, they are safe for anyone to use. That’s not true.
So, why would someone take a prescription drug that wasn’t theirs? Research shows there are many reasons.
While a number of young people take prescription drugs to get high, many teens, especially girls, take them to help them concentrate when studying or to deal with physical pain. Even this type of use is considered “abuse” and is illegal since the drug was not prescribed for that person.
Not only is it illegal but it might end up affecting your health. Even if you follow the directions on the label, those instructions were written for someone else. For example, different body weights require different dosages for many medicines.
You might be saying, “Well, my friend took a prescription drug that wasn’t hers and she was ok. What’s the big deal?” Maybe for your friend, or even you, it was fine that time-but that may not be the case the next time. Some people aren’t so lucky (like Heath Ledger). Different drugs have different effects. For example, abusing stimulants could cause your blood pressure to become dangerously high or lead to an irregular heartbeat. Or if opioids are taken with alcohol or antihistamines, they can cause you to stop breathing.
Writing this reminded me of a story I heard about an acquaintance who decided to try OxyContin at a party. She had been drinking when she took the pill and didn’t know that OxyContin mixed with alcohol can have some pretty nasty effects. She became disoriented, got separated from her friends, and passed out. Fortunately, her friends found her and she recovered. She decided never again to take that kind of risk, but it’s too bad she had to go through such a scary ordeal before making that choice.
When you’re faced with the option to use a prescription drug that’s not yours, pause and ask yourself… Is this something I really want to add to the mix? Do I want to take the chance of putting myself and my friends through what could happen? If you’re reading this, you’ve shown that you care about yourself and your future. Show you care the next time you face a tough choice about whether or not to pop a pill that’s not yours.
Bio: Anna is a public health analyst with NIDA. She spends a lot of time looking at numbers and answering questions about drug abuse statistics. When she’s not doing that she’s usually at the gym, finding new restaurants, or spending time with her family.
If you’re taking any medications—either those prescribed by a doctor or over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine—it’s not a good idea to drink alcohol. Often, the medication label will warn you not to—because of the possible dangerous side effects. Read the label! You’ll find lots of good info, like:
- The medication’s active ingredients, including ingredient amounts in each dose
- The medication’s purpose and uses
- Dosage instructions—when and how to take it
- Specific warnings about interactions (with alcohol and other drugs)
- Activities to avoid
- The medication’s inactive ingredients (important to help people avoid an allergic reaction)
Because the drug label information can be confusing, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what side effects you might experience and not to mix medications and alcohol. Here’s what can happen:
- Drinking alcohol while ibuprofen (Motrin) is in your system could cause stomach upset, stomach bleeding, and even liver damage.
- If you’re taking a sleep medication like Ambien, alcohol could cause increased drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and memory problems.
- Mixing caffeine and energy drinks with alcohol is also a bad idea since their opposite effects (alcohol is a depressant, caffeine a stimulant) can fool you into drinking more than your body can handle.
Here is a list of many common medications and what can happen if the user drinks alcohol while taking them. Some of them may surprise you.
ots of teens have questions about drugs. That’s why each year, NIDA scientists spend a day chatting online with high school students and answering their questions.
At NIDA’s last Drug Facts Chat Day, ham223 asked this question:
“What types of drugs are most used by high school students?”
According to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Survey—which looks at the different drugs that teens are using—alcohol is number one (yes, it’s a drug), followed by tobacco and marijuana, which are pretty equal. Turns out, though, that not many teens are using most illegal drugs. The survey shows that in 2008, fewer than 1 in 6 10th graders reported that they used any illegal drug in the past month. And the numbers are still going down.