Alcohol has been used for centuries in social, medical, cultural, and religious settings. Most people believe that they can handle the consumption of alcohol. However, its excess consumption leads to health, social, legal, and other problems.
Teenagers generally acquire their understanding of alcohol, through family, peers, the media, and personal experimentation. This more often than not, leads to a number of misconceptions. When you consume alcohol, moderately or in excess, certain changes take place in your minds and bodies which can lead to both short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) consequences. This is what the students are required to understand.
Following are a few misconceptions about alcohol:
Children cannot be alcoholics: Teenagers make the most usage of alcohol. It is the most used and abused drug among young people. A recent national poll reports that one in four eighth graders drank alcohol in the past month, and 18 percent of eighth graders got drunk at least once in the past year. Research using animal models suggests that the developing brain of the adolescent responds differently to alcohol than does the adult brain. Children who abuse alcohol may develop alcoholism, though the criteria for making the diagnosis may be different from those used to diagnose adults.
Small amounts of alcohol won’t impair bodily or mental functions: Half of the states in the United States have set the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at 0.08 percent for motor vehicle operation. (BAC is usually expressed without “percent.”) This does not mean, however, that an individual is unimpaired at lower BACs. A BAC of 0.02–0.04 can impair memory and judgment.
The effects of alcohol on an individual vary depending on the person’s weight, nutritional state, gender, exposure to other drugs, and other factors. Any amount of alcohol taken during pregnancy is considered risky.
Alcohol is good for your health: Recent reports have indicated that moderate drinking (defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men) may lessen the risk for cardiovascular disease. These observations, however, does not mean that you must take to drinking at once. In considering such findings, it is important to weigh the benefits versus the risks. Although moderate drinking is associated with decreased risk for heart disease, it is also associated with increased risk of accidents. Drinking five or more drinks per day leads to increased risks for stroke and cancer. In addition, pregnant women, people using certain medications, and those diagnosed with alcoholism or other medical problems should refrain from drinking entirely.
Alcohol is a stimulant: Alcohol has been falsely thought of as a stimulant because its initial effects on some people include feelings of euphoria and lowered inhibitions. Alcohol is classified correctly as a depressant because it later causes sedation and drowsiness. If consumed in high concentrations, alcohol can induce unconsciousness, coma, and even death.
Alcohol’s effects are only temporary: The adult body can process approximately one drink per hour. A drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is one 12-ounce bottle of wine cooler or beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor. A significant portion of the societal costs of alcohol use (for example, falls, automobile crashes, and violence) is due to acute effects. Alcohol users and abusers, as well as alcoholics, can suffer injuries related to the acute effects of alcohol. Although the acute effects of alcohol last only a short time, chronic long-term effects can develop and persist. Adolescents and adults who drink excessive amounts of alcohol may be causing chronic alterations to their brains. A recent study provides evidence that heavy drinking among teenagers can impair brain function. It is not yet known if these effects are reversible.
Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are problems only for the individual drinker: Alcoholism is a complex disease that involves a variety of factors including genetic, environmental, social, and behavioral components. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are social problems that touch many more lives than that of the individual drinker. Alcohol abuse is a contributing factor to many other social problems including auto crashes, domestic violence, and child abuse or neglect. In addition to the personal costs, alcoholism also has a severe economic impact on the country due to lost productivity, healthcare treatment, and costs attendant to administering the criminal justice system.
Alcoholism can be cured by behavioral programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous: Alcoholism, at present, has no known cure. However, as with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, alcoholism can be controlled effectively using behavioral therapies, with or without pharmacological therapies. For such treatments to be effective, however, the patient must be willing to make significant and permanent lifestyle changes. People being treated for alcoholism often experience one or more episodes of relapse. An important aspect of behavioral therapy is to help patients deal with such relapses and motivate them to continue their efforts to remain sober.
People with alcoholism are morally weak individuals lacking will power: Alcoholism involves more than just drinking too much. It is known to be a complex disease that involves a variety of factors including genetic, environmental, social, and behavioral components. The physical dependence of alcoholics on drinking defines alcoholism as a disease that must be diagnosed and as separate from alcohol abuse. In alcoholic individuals, the brain is affected by alcohol and promotes its continued use through both positive and negative reinforcements. Most notably, the severe physical withdrawal symptoms that result from stopping drinking serve as a strong biological force that can maintain drinking behavior.
The public knows enough about the effects of alcohol use, thus, further research is not necessary: It is true that we do know many of the behavioral effects of alcohol consumption, such as memory and motor function impairment. Nonetheless, we do not know how alcohol creates its addictive actions. Research continues to provide insight into how alcohol acts on all cells of the body and affects their functions. New scientific approaches help scientists understand more about the biological and behavioral effects of alcohol. One approach uses knockout mice (mice with a specific gene deleted) to identify genes that predispose a person to alcoholism. New imaging techniques enable scientists to see alcohol’s effects in the living brain. In addition, various sociological studies are helping us better understand the social effects of alcohol consumption. The results of these studies, “from cell to society,” yield essential knowledge that is a prerequisite for more-effective ways to prevent and treat this disease.