*The consumption of alcohol by a minor (persons under 21) is illegal*
When a person drinks alcohol, it gets absorbed into their bloodstream and from there it affects their central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord which controls basically all body function. During the adolescent and teen years, your brain is still developing. In fact, the human brain doesn’t fully develop until around age 25.
So why does this matter? Well, consuming alcohol during this critical growth period can lead to lifelong damage in brain function, specifically as it relates to memory, motor skills and coordination. Additionally, adolescents who begin drinking before age fifteen are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at the legal age of 21.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows the central nervous system and alters a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision and hearing. Depending on how much alcohol a person drinks and other factors, such as weight and gender, will determine how intoxicated, or drunk, a person gets.
People who have become intoxicated tend to:
- Lose their coordination
- Slur their speech
- Have mood and behavior changes
When people consume large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, they can get alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is just as it sounds, when your body becomes poisoned by alcohol. It’s very important to get medical attention if you suspect someone may have alcohol poisoning because it can be fatal. Symptoms include:
- Violent vomiting
- Extreme sleepiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Dangerously low blood sugar
Did You Know?
The following statistics were taken from the 2017 High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS):
- 16% of NC high school students report drinking alcohol for the first time before age 13
- 27% of NC high school students report having at least one drink of alcohol in the past 30 days
- 12% of NC high school students report having 4 or more drinks in a row, within a couple of hours, in the past 30 days
- More teens die as a result of alcohol use than all other illicit drugs combined
- More than one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol related
- One person dies every week as a result of underage drinking in NC
- Underage drinkers are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine
- Teens who use alcohol are at a high risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder
Nemours Teens Health
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services