Why Teens Drink

It is difficult to pick specific characteristics of teens who decide to drink alcohol. But among heavy alcohol drinkers, there are certain common traits—factors that should alarm any teen who drinks alcohol:

• Heavy teen drinkers (those who consume five or more alcoholic beverages when they drink) are twice as likely as nondrinkers to say their schoolwork is poor.

• Heavy teen drinkers are four to six times more likely to say that they cut classes or skip school.

• Heavy teen drinkers are three times more likely to say that they deliberately try to hurt or kill themselves and twice as likely to say that they think about committing suicide.

Heavy teen drinkers create problems for others as well as for themselves. Studies have clearly shown that alcohol use and abuse lead to aggressive behavior. Teens who drink frequently and heavily are more likely to run away from home, to steal (from home and elsewhere), and to physically attack other people and their property. They are more likely to get into fights, to shoplift, and to break the law. All of these dangerous behaviors are in addition to the threat posed by anyone who has been drinking and then gets behind the wheel of a car.

A team of researchers at the University of California at San Diego has recently uncovered some alarming facts about how alcohol abuse can prove particularly dangerous for the brain functioning of teens. During adolescence, critical brain development is taking place, particularly for brain nerve cell connections. Cerebral metabolic rates are high until you reach the age of about 20. Because of this, alcohol affects teens

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Age 29 34 39 44 49 54 59 64

This graph from the 2000 NHSDA shows the percentage of people in different age groups who reported driving under the influence of alcohol. Many people believe they will never get behind the wheel after drinking, but alcohol impairs judgment and may make someone who has been drinking believe he or she is not impaired.

differently from the way it affects adults. It can damage memory function, making it much more difficult for the brain to retain information. These effects are true not only for the period in time when you are drinking, but continue to damage your brain long after the party has ended.

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