What could be more fun than having difficulty walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slower reaction times and impaired memory? Today’s youth, despite all that is known about drug and alcohol use, still give in to the allure of alcoholic beverages. One American Medical Association (AMA) study reported that roughly 20% of 18 to 30-year-olds are binge drinkers. Among those who binge, 19% said they binge “frequently,” and 7% binge every time they drink alcohol.
It’s hard for young people to accept advice on alcohol consumption, yet they know that there are so many factors that influence how alcohol affects the individual, such as how much one drinks, how often, the type of drink, weight, age, genetics, gender, health and food eaten that day. Everyone feels that he or she is the exception to the rule. Those who know they have intolerance to drinking alcohol, generally avoid it.
How does the binge drinking of alcoholic beverages affect the brain in the long run? As many as 80% of alcoholics have a thiamine deficiency, which predisposes them to serious brain disorders like Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). WKS consists of a short–lived (but severe) condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting (and debilitating) dysfunction known as Korsakoff’s psychosis. The encephalopathy side induces mental confusion, nerve paralysis in the eyes and poor muscle coordination. Korsakoff’s psychosis leads to learning and memory failure, frustration and forgetfulness bordering on amnesia. Chronic alcohol consumption hurts the cerebellum worst of all and 25% of patients who develop WKS require a caretaker.
Alcohol poisoning can come about by the over-consumption of alcoholic beverages — notably beer. Normally the body can flush out alcohol in an hour or so. Consuming several beers in an hour will raise blood alcohol concentration, in which case the central nervous system or CNS gag reflex, heart rate and breathing capacity are all decreased, leading to choking, comas and death. Binge drinking produces a similar effect in the body as consuming ethanol alcohol, rubbing alcohol or household cleaners. Any individual with alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention, intravenous fluids, breathing support and vitamins. Symptoms can closely resemble common drunkenness, with confusion and grogginess, being sick and fainting. However, in some cases breathing becomes slow or irregular, seizures occur, the skin turns blue and the body temperature drops.
There are many dangers of drinking under the legal drinking age. One scientific theory is that your liver does not fully form until you are 21. New studies suggest that kids, who develop a tolerance for drinking early on, will continue to do so throughout their lives. Since an alcoholic drink can impair one’s decision-making and threat assessment, there are many social dangers that young people should be aware of. For example, drunk driving is the leading cause of car accidents and unprotected sex leads to STDs and are more prevalent among those who participate in binge drinking. Furthermore, alcoholic beverages are a factor in two-thirds of all sexual assaults on students.