It is the intent of this article, to educate and inform, not to lecture. Most of you know the dangers of alcohol use, you have had informational classes at school, your parents have talked to you about it, and if you watch television at all, you have seen numerous televised “spots” aimed at preventing teenage drinking.
The first thing to understand about alcohol use is that for you, it is illegal. Unless you are 18 or 21 (depending on what state you live in), which are not allowed by law to drink at all. Doing so can and does carry serious legal and social consequences for both yourself and your parents. In addition, it is simply a bad idea.
Alcohol has been used for thousands of years for various purposes. It is a large part of daily life in many European countries, and is used for medicinal purposes, among others. If you watch old movies, you may see someone drinking or being offered liquor to warm them up, or to take as a sort of anesthetic prior to emergency surgery, in less than ideal settings. It has been used to sterilize wounds (ouch!), and some people believe a small amount of hard liquor on an empty stomach will keep parasites from being absorbed into the body from food eaten in less than clean establishments. (Not at all certain about the effectiveness of this!)
One common area of confusion seems to be beer vs. “hard” liquor. Both will get you drunk, both are illegal, and if you drink enough, both will make you quite sick.
Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. A small amount of alcohol will make you feel relaxed, and perhaps you will feel that you are in a better mood after drinking. That effect is only temporary. The more you drink, the more depressed you are apt to feel. The exact effects differ greatly from person to person, some people become friendly, outgoing and talkative, while others may become hostile, aggressive and argumentative. There is no way of predicting which will occur to which person.
It interferes with motor activity, reflexes and coordination. It impairs judgment, decreases reaction time, balance. And contrary to popular belief, once alcohol enters your small intestine, it is not affected by food intake.
Drinking heavily over a long period of time, can lead to physical and psychological addiction. “Heavily” and a “long period of time” can be quite different for different people. There is no way to predict at what point a person will start to have an addictive problem with alcohol.
There are devastating physical consequences to drinking alcohol also. They are usually associated with chronic alcoholism, but they give you an idea of what alcohol can do to your body; heart disease, malnutrition (alcohol affects the absorption of nutrients by the body, in addition, many people who drink heavily just don’t bother to eat).
The temptation for teenagers to drink can be huge. It is difficult to go to a party, for example, and watch other kids drink and resist the pressure to be “one of them” and take a drink. The best way to handle a situation like this is to leave. Call your parents, call a cab if you have to, but leave. And, whatever you do, PLEASE, don’t ever get in a car with someone who has been drinking behind the wheel. Even if they seem “fine”. Not everyone who is intoxicated, is staggering and slurring their speech.
When you are of legal age, then it will be up to you to decide whether you want to drink or not. Many people drink alcohol. Some drink a little, or “socially” and some a lot. However, there are also many people who do not drink at all.
Think about how hard you work to keep your body in shape, and your mind sharp. Additionally, think about how much money, time and effort you and your parents have put into hockey. Now, think about what would happen if your coach found out you had been drinking. End of “career”. Loss of respect from your teammates, your coach, parents, and most of all loss of respect for yourself. In the end, only you can make the decision whether or not it is worth the risk. There are many agencies and organizations that are ready and willing to answer any questions you may have, or concerns you may face. If you are worried about your own or someone else’s alcohol consumption, or want support NOT to drink, talk to your parents first, school counselor, coach, teacher, or clergyman. At the end of this article are some online links to agencies who can help you.
National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, Inc.
Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving
FACE Resources Training & Action on Alcohol Issues