According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those between the ages of 12 and 20 drink 11% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. Even though you might be underage, it’s (ahem) possible you’ve had a drink or two or that your friends might be dabbling in alcoholic refreshments before reaching the legal drinking age of 21. After all, 70% of teens have had at least one drink by the time they turn 18. So, what is the big deal? Why are parents and schools so uptight about underage drinking? As we know, sometimes, adults are so gripped by fear for our well-being, that they have a little trouble articulating what they actually mean.
There are real reasons to avoid alcohol. The effects of drinking can vary based on the amount an individual consumes, but here are some of the common risks:
It can impair your judgement.
People who have been drinking are more likely to think less clearly, take dangerous chances, and make poor decisions. This can lead to things like drinking and driving, getting into fights, and putting yourself in bad social situations. But all the while, while people who have been drinking might be thinking “This is awesome!”
Because alcohol slows down brain function and limits information-processing skills, drinkers have less of an ability to tell right from wrong or instant gratification fun vs. total disaster tomorrow (or forever). You might make amazing decisions when you’re sober, but that doesn’t mean you’ll make the best calls when you’re wasted.
It can make you feel like you’re acting cool – but other people might not agree.
This follows from #1. Alcohol is a common relaxer, a “social lubricant” that people use to feel more comfortable when they are at parties or in other social situations. In addition to inhibiting decision-making, alcohol can also make it difficult to communicate, causing slurred speech and affecting hearing.
Even more embarrassing: it can mess with your “filters” and your ability to be circumspect in conversation. While alcohol can cut down some social discomfort, getting drunk can lead to some serious social awkwardness.
Decisions you make under the influence can have lasting legal consequences…
Drinking and driving (only for a couple minutes!) and other bad choices you make might get you in trouble with schools, or even the law – and this can have negative impacts on your future. Is getting caught worth it?
And social ones, too.
Alcohol-influenced moments can live forever online. Remember your digital footprint, and avoid doing anything you’ll regret when you (or someone else) has their phone out, taking pictures and video (which is pretty much always). Are you willing to risk your reputation?
It can make you feel gross.
Hangovers are no fun. They can cause headaches, and they can also be associated with dizziness, shakiness, throwing up, and rapid heart beats.
It can cause weight gain.
Many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and calories. If you are trying to stay fit and healthy, alcohol is not your friend.
It can affect your grades and test scores.
Because our brains continue developing into our early and mid twenties, research also shows that underage drinking can affect important brain function like memory in the short-term and the long-term. Not helpful for the upcoming SATs and ACTs.
So, rethinking your weekend plans?