Alcoholic drinks have been used almost all over the world, as far back as the ancient times. There are records of their usage by the ancient civilizations as far back as year 6,000 B.C. Wine production has its origin in the Middle East, where the vine bore fruit without special care. The Old Testament attributes the planting of the first vine growing to Noe, considering him as the first person who got drunk.
Greek philosophers, such as Socrates and Platon recommended moderation and incriminated the abuse of alcohol. The Romans were familiarized with the wine by the Greeks and, even if they conquered the Greek Empire, they were actually the ones who were conquered by the Greek culture, by their gods and by the Greeks’ affinity for wine consumption. Christianity helped to the instauration of a moderate position towards the consumption of alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks spread from one country to another, being transformed according to the fruit type that was available and to the inhabitants’ tastes: the vodka made from potatoes in Russia, whiskey, beer, gin, cognac in Europe, ale in the British Islands, “sake” in Japan, “soma” in China, “chica” and “pulque” in South America, rum in the Caribbean Islands.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables arefermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items — everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative.
So if alcohol is a natural product, why do teens need to be concerned about drinking it? When people drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions. Because experts now know that the human brain is still developing during our teens, scientists are researching the effects drinking alcohol can have on the teen brain.
How Does It Affect the Body?
The alcohol affects the body in two ways:
1) comes into contact with the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines where it has an irritant and “anesthetic” action (causing the lack of the feeling of pain with or without the loss of conscience),
2) only 20% of the ingested alcohol quantity is absorbed in the stomach, the rest of 80% is absorbed through the intestinal walls directly into the blood, reching every body cell.
It affects the brain interfering in the activity of the centers coordinating the equilibrium, perception, speech and thinking. It produces difficulties in speaking and errors in the thinking process. Also there are affected the coordination centers, so appearing the classic “symptoms”: the stumbling walk, falls, and even the impossibility of keeping a lighted match in hand. Paradoxically, though it slows the organism functions, the alcohol leads to disappearance of the inhibitions. The emotions are more easily expressed, because that part of the brain that helps us to control our behavior is put out of function or it is excessively relaxed so the emotions become exaggerated. If enough alcohol is consumed the person will fall asleep or, in extreme cases will go into coma. The consumption of large alcohol quantities increases the risk of mouth, tongue, pharynges, larynges and esophagus cancer, probably because of its irritating action. The liver diseases caused by the alcohol excess include the inflammation of the liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. The acute lack of thiamine (B1 vitamin) can cause heart attacks, usually combined with edemas (fluid accumulation in tissues).
The alcohol increases the risk of heart diseases, infarcts and determinates the increasing of the blood pressure. Other disorders caused by the alcohol abuse include: gastritis, pancreatic disorder, neuritis (nervous disorders) and digestive ulcer. The persons consuming large alcohol quantities have bigger chances than other to suffer of anxiety, paranoia or depression. The chances of dementia are also more increased. Shortly, the organism can adapt to the negative effects produced by alcohol. But in a while it becomes incapable of keeping its balance and disastrous effects will occur. It is all the liver can do to neutralize the body toxins. If after a certain period one renounces consuming alcohol, the negative affects may disappear. But if this period is prolonged too much irreversible transformations may occur.
The alcohol can produce sterility and tends to slow the fetus development, as it does to the functions of cells and organs. It may determinate structural and functional malfunctions, even retardation. These malfunctions, known under the name of “alcohol to fetus syndrome”, lead to the incomplete development of the members, facial deformities and abnormal brain development, which generates intellectual and motor difficulties.
The experience proved that the risk of spontaneous abortion is much greater for the women excessively consuming alcohol, also as the risk of the birth of underdeveloped or with compartmental disorders children. These children develop much slower than ones of the mothers practicing abstinence.
The alcohol, unlike food, is not digested in the stomach and in the intestines. When alcohol reaches the stomach, a part of it passes into the stomach cells and than into the blood stream. The rest passes into the thin intestine and than directly into the blood stream. The alcohol can affect the cells protecting the stomach and the larynges. Even in small quantities, the alcohol increases the secretion of the gastric juices inside the stomach and creates a hunger sensation. The constant irritation of the stomach cover can produce gastritis: chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane. The food can slow the absorption of the alcohol in the blood stream with 50%. The fat foods, along with proteins, such as milk and cheese, can protect the one that drinks to intoxicate too fast. The degree of intoxication is generated by the quantity of alcohol consumed one time and of the speed of consumption. The slow and in small doses consumption allows the liver to oxidize the alcohol much more efficient than if it is consumed at once. The result will be al smaller intoxication degree.
The alcohol must be decomposed into the liver in carbon dioxide and water, before it leaves the body. The liver can decompose only small amounts at a time. The rest of alcohol travels into the blood until the liver will be again capable of decomposing it.
The cirrhosis is a liver deterioration that destroys the healthy cells and leaves only fat and fibrous tissues. The cirrhosis is caused by the long term excessive alcohol consumption.
As the alcohol travels into the blood, it reaches all the body parts. In several minutes it also reaches the brain. The alcohol is sedative and depressive; it slows the activity of the brain. The alcohol prevents the storage and also the gathering of the information from the memory, can produce hallucinations and also apoplexy.
Ficat The alcohol can deteriorate both the vision and hearing. The taste, smell and tactile perception can be also affected. Because all the muscles are under the brain control, this control is affected even by small quantities of alcohol. This deterioration can lead in time to the loss of coordination and of the reaction power.
The body weight is a determining factor for the alcohol effect over the body. The liver oxidizes the alcohol, this meaning that it chemically decomposes it. A larger person, with a larger weight, will easily support the alcohol effects than a smaller person. The intoxication effect appears when the alcohol reaches the brain and can not be anymore oxidized by the liver.
REMEMBER! the alcohol is not digested like the food is. It is absorbed into the blood, a part through the stomach and a part through the thin intestine. The alcoholic strength of a drink determines its effects on the body. The “strength” indicates the concentration of the alcohol in the drink.
The alcohol content
Beer – 3-6% alcohol (made of cereals)
Wine – 10-14% alcohol (of grapes)
Gin, whiskey, cognac, rum – 40-50% alcohol (fermented mixture of cereals and fruits)
The level of alcohol in the blood represents the quantity of the alcohol transported by the blood to the brain, determining the degree of intoxication. An alcohol level in the blood of 0.01 – 0.02% has no effect on the body; 0.10 – 0.15 causes more serious symptoms, such as the vision, hearing and motor skills deterioration. At a level of 0.10 – 0.15 the driving of a car is very dangerous. At 0.20% clear signs of inebriety appear: talking, walking difficulty. The concentrations over 0.40% lead to the coma state. The ones of 0.60 – 0,70% cause death .
As you see the alcohol has many effects on the body. Some are short-term, others are long-term. Though, both can be disastrous.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters a person’s perceptions, emotions, movement, vision, and hearing.
In very small amounts, alcohol can help a person feel more relaxed or less anxious. More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting inintoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Depending on the person, intoxication can make someone very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry. Reaction times are slowed dramatically — which is why people are told not to drink and drive. People who are intoxicated may think they’re moving properly when they’re not. They may act totally out of character.
When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result. Alcohol poisoning is exactly what it sounds like — the body has become poisoned by large amounts of alcohol. Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom of alcohol poisoning. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, and even death may result.
Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol is absorbed in the blood and transported to all the cells in the body, causing short term and long terms effects.
Short term effects
1. Slow responses to the ambient environment
2. Decrease of coordination
3. Decrease of the capacity to think clear
4. The memory alteration
6. Vision disorder
7. Increased risk of accidents
8. Difficulty of walking or standing
9. Loss of conscience
Long term effects
2. Memory loss
3. Hepatic cirrhosis
4. Brain damage
5. Heart diseases
7. Shortening of the life-time period
8. Death by accidents
Why Do Teens Drink?
Experimentation with alcohol during the teen years is common. Some reasons that teens use alcohol and other drugs are:
To feel good, reduce stress, and relax
To fit in
To feel older
From a very young age, kids see advertising messages showing beautiful people enjoying life — and alcohol. And because many parents and other adults use alcohol socially — having beer or wine with dinner, for example — alcohol seems harmless to many teens.
Why Shouldn’t I Drink?
Although it’s illegal to buy alcohol in the United States until the age of 21, most teens can get access to it. It’s therefore up to you to make a decision about drinking. In addition to the possibility of becoming addicted, there are some downsides to drinking:
The punishment is severe.
Teens who drink put themselves at risk for obvious problems with the law (it’s illegal; you can get arrested). Teens who drink are also more likely to get into fights and commit crimes than those who don’t.
People who drink regularly also often have problems with school. Drinking can damage a student’s ability to study well and get decent grades, as well as affect sports performance (the coordination thing).
You can look really stupid.
The impression is that drinking is cool, but the nervous system changes that come from drinking alcohol can make people do stupid or embarrassing things, like throwing up or peeing on themselves. Drinking also gives people bad breath, and no one enjoys a hangover.
Alcohol puts your health at risk.
Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually active and to have unsafe, unprotected sex. Resulting pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases can change — or even end — lives. The risk of injuring yourself, maybe even fatally, is higher when you’re under the influence, too. One half of all drowning deaths among teen guys are related to alcohol use. Use of alcohol greatly increases the chance that a teen will be involved in a car crash, homicide, or suicide.
Teen drinkers are more likely to get fat or have health problems, too. One study by the University of Washington found that people who regularly had five or more drinks in a row starting at age 13 were much more likely to be overweight or have high blood pressure by age 24 than their nondrinking peers. People who continue drinking heavily well into adulthood risk damaging their organs, such as the liver, heart, and brain.
How Can I Avoid Drinking?
If all your friends drink and you don’t want to, it can be hard to say “no, thanks.” No one wants to risk feeling rejected or left out. Different strategies for turning down alcohol work for different people. Some people find it helps to say no without giving an explanation, others think offering their reasons works better (“I’m not into drinking,” “I have a game tomorrow,” or “my uncle died from drinking,” for example).
If saying no to alcohol makes you feel uncomfortable in front of people you know, blame your parents or another adult for your refusal. Saying, “My parents are coming to pick me up soon,” “I already got in major trouble for drinking once, I can’t do it again,” or “my coach would kill me,” can make saying no a bit easier for some.
If you’re going to a party and you know there will be alcohol, plan your strategy in advance. You and a friend can develop a signal for when it’s time to leave, for example. You can also make sure that you have plans to do something besides just hanging out in someone’s basement drinking beer all night. Plan a trip to the movies, the mall, a concert, or a sports event. You might also organize your friends into a volleyball, bowling, or softball team — any activity that gets you moving.
Girls or guys who have strong self-esteem are less likely to become problem drinkers than people with low self-esteem.
– Regha Healthcare Center