Before one can get into the effects of alcohol, it is important to know what consumption actually means. There are different degrees of alcohol consumption. Students might have heard about binge drinking. Any occasion where four (for women) and five (for men) or more drinks are consumed at one sitting is considered binge drinking, and it often raises the blood alcohol level very quickly. Clicking on the provided link will take you to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) Trend Data Web site. Select “Alcohol Use: Binge Drinking” from the “Negative Behavior/Circumstance” and select your state (or select “Nationwide”) and click go to see a graph of binge drinking by age group in your state from 1990-2002. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
As chronic implies, this is a long term and on-going issue. Drinking becomes a daily habit. Click on the Chronic Drinking in Your State link to display a graph of chronic drinking by age group from 1990-2002. Choose the risk factor “chronic drinking” and your state. Clicking on the provided link will take you to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) Trend Data Web site. Select “Alcohol Use: Chronic Drinking” from the “Negative Behavior/Circumstance” and select your state (or select “Nationwide”) and click go to see a graph of chronic drinking by age group in your state from 1990-2002. This data tracks a wide range of age groups; however, students should be aware that age 18, the lowest in the survey, is an illegal age to drink alcohol in the United States. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
Now that we know the definitions of drinking, we will look at some statistics on teen drinking. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth conducted an executive survey regarding teen alcohol use in the United States and issued a status report in 2004. Two national public health surveys tracked underage drinking. Monitoring the Future collected data in schools for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive (SAMHDA) through University of Michigan. They found that in the year 2004, nearly one in five 8 th graders, more than one in three 10 th graders, and nearly one in two 12 th graders had a drink in the month prior to the survey. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that in 2003 approximately 10.9 million underage youth, ages 12 to 20, reported they consumed alcohol in the month prior to the survey. Nearly 7.2 million underage youth also reported binge drinking, where binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on a single occasion at least once in the past 30 days. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
Statistics show that there is alcohol consumption among teens; therefore, they should be familiar with what alcohol can do to the body and behavior. As you move through each of these effects, take time to solicit examples from the students. An example of slower reaction time/reflexes might involve a person that has been drinking trying to catch a ball. Hand-eye coordination might not be as quick for someone who has been drinking. So someone who has been drinking might not catch the ball when it is thrown to them as easily as they would otherwise. Since alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and intestinal lining, nausea and vomiting are common occurrences. There is a danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation if the person is unconscious. Lowered reasoning ability might involve someone taking risks that they normally would not take. For example, they may leave a party with a stranger. Graphic Reference: Cool Archive-Free Clipart, Fonts, Icons [online]. 2005. [cited 4 July 2005] Available online at URL: http://www.coolarchive.com
The characteristics of poor motor skills can be seen in a task as simple as walking. Alcohol will decrease the ability of a person to walk in a straight line and might even cause him/her to fall. Poor motor skills might also lead to driving accidents. Alcohol acts as a depressant and slows the heart rate. It also interferes with normal contraction and rhythm of the heartbeat. These effects are thought to be major reasons for sudden death among alcoholics. (6) Increased blood pressure, or hypertension, is associated with chronic drinking and usually goes away two to three weeks after drinking has stopped. Mood swings might be noticed, with anxiety and restlessness being at the top of the list. Lower inhibitions might lead a teen to do things he or she would not normally do, which could put them in a compromising or dangerous situation. Risky behavior, such as unprotected sex, might result. They might also have poor judgment.
When alcohol is consumed at a faster rate than the liver can absorb, it moves into areas of high water content in the body, for example, the brain. It can cause mental confusion and memory loss. Drinking causes some people to “not remember” their evening. In larger doses, alcohol can affect the medulla oblongata, which is responsible for basic survival functions, such as heart rate and breathing. Respiratory arrest occurs when a person stops breathing.
So drinking relates to various short term and long term effects on the body. It could also have a long term effect in the sense that it could affect your future by decreasing brain function during prime learning periods. A study was performed on teens and drinking. Susan Tapert illustrates that drinking might harm the ability of a teen’s brain to process information. This slide shows brain activity of a 15 year old with an alcohol problem versus the brain activity of a non-drinking 15 year old. The pink shows brain activity. It is clear that the teen who does not drink has much more activity. Study published and permission granted for use in this PowerPoint by Susan Brown. Brown SA, Tapert SF, Granholm E, Delis DC (2000). Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: effects of protracted alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 24 (2): 164-171. [Cited 20 June 2005].
This is a continuation of the study on brain activity of teens drinking alcohol. Recall tests were done and the results were clear that alcohol does effect recall. School and life are based on recall. Study published and permission granted for use in this PowerPoint by Susan Brown. Brown SA, Tapert SF, Granholm E, Delis DC (2000). Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: effects of protracted alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 24 (2): 164-171. [Cited 20 June 2005].
Now that we know the effects of alcohol on our brain and body, how is alcohol measured in the body? Blood alcohol level or concentration is associated with the rate at which alcohol is metabolized by the liver. The higher the alcohol level in the blood, the more intoxicated a person will be. As the liver removes the alcohol from the blood and processes it, the blood alcohol level will drop. Here are some factors that effect BAL: Weight : The larger a person, the lower the blood alcohol level will be for a given amount of alcohol consumed. Amount of food and water in the stomach : Food will slow the absorption of the alcohol into the blood stream, resulting in a lower blood alcohol level. Carbonated alcoholic beverages : Carbonation speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream. Gender : Females tend to be smaller than males and also have a higher fat concentration in body tissues. More fat means less water. Alcohol is soluble in water, so in males the alcohol is more evenly distributed throughout the body creating a lower blood alcohol level. A woman will have a higher blood alcohol level after consuming the same amount of alcohol. Graphic Reference: Cool Archive-Free Clipart, Fonts, Icons [online]. 2005. [cited 4 July 2005] Available online at URL: http://www.coolarchive.com
There are several factors involved in calculating blood alcohol levels. First, you need to know the weight of the individual in pounds. You also need to know the percent of alcohol. This can be found on the bottle as proof. If the proof is 100, then the percent is 50. If it is 80 proof, the percent is 40. Beer has an alcohol content of 3-6%, wine 9-14%, and hard liquor greater than 14%. Finally you need to know the ounces consumed. In most cases, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is expressed without units in a form like the following: &quot;the driver has a BAC of 0.18 at the time of the accident.&quot; This really means that the driver had 0.18 grams of ethanol per 100 milliliters of blood. Remember that this is grams of the actual chemical ethyl alcohol, not grams of actual beverage. Graphic Reference: Cool Archive-Free Clipart, Fonts, Icons [online]. 2005. [cited 4 July 2005] Available online at URL: http://www.coolarchive.com
Basically, there are lots of numbers but this is an easy calculation to do. For example, if a 175 pound man drinks four 12 ounce cans of beer, what will his blood alcohol level be? First we take 150 divided by his weight in pounds, which is 175. We multiply by the percent alcohol found in beer divided by 50. As noted before, most beers range from 3-6%. This particular beer was 4%. Next multiply by the ounces consumed. Four cans multiplied by 12 ounces is 48. And finally multiply by 0.025. This gives him a total blood alcohol level of .08% which means that he currently has .08 grams of ethyl alcohol per 100 mL of blood circulating through his body and his brain. So at what level do we start to see the short term effects?
At blood alcohol levels of 0.03 to 0.12, the drinker is in a state of euphoria. This is the beginning stage where self confidence increases , and the drinker feels good about him/herself. The drinker could also exhibit a short attention span, poor judgment, and have trouble with his/her fine motor skills. (8) All of these effects were discussed in the short term effects earlier in the slide show.
At the upper edge of euphoria, around 0.09, the drinker heads into a stage known as excitement. The stage name does not support the characteristics since the drinker becomes sleepy and slow. Reaction time is decreased, which could make driving or operating machinery a hazard. The drinker looses coordination and may become unbalanced. He/she may also experience blurry vision and impaired senses, becoming numb around the face area. (8)
At the upper edge of excitement, at around 0.18, the drinker may become confused and highly emotional. Slurred speech is a common characteristic at this level. They continue to be sleepy and uncoordinated and might not feel pain as easily.
Moving up the blood alcohol ladder leads to stupor. At this point, the drinker basically cannot perform normally and could become ill and even pass out. (8)
The last level is known as alcohol poisoning and could lead to death. The alcohol affects the brain stem, as well as other basic body functions. Breathing, heart rate , and body temperature might not be regulated, which could lead to a coma. (8)
At blood alcohol levels greater than 0.50, death occurs. (8) Since most students associate blood alcohol levels with drinking and driving, this is a good time to introduce some blood alcohol limits regulated by law.
One area regulated by law is the blood alcohol driving limit. Currently, half of the states in the US have 0.08 BAL and the other half have 0.10 BAL. This level of intoxication relates to the blood alcohol level of the driver. (6) If the driver’s blood alcohol level tests at 0.08 in some states, then the driver is considered legally intoxicated and can be cited with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence). In other states, blood alcohol levels of 0.10 define whether the driver is legally intoxicated or not. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
Drinking may be a personal choice, but it affects more than just you. For example strangers may be affected through accidents. Statistics from the US Department of Transportation include: Alcohol was involved in 39% of fatal crashes in 1997. About 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime. In 1997, the highest rates for fatal crashes while intoxicated involved persons 21-24 years of age. One third of all pedestrians 16 years or older killed in traffic crashes in 1997 were intoxicated. (6) Drinking lowers inhibitions and increases risky behavior. Teens might engage in unprotected sex while under the influence, which could lead to unplanned pregnancy. If a woman drinks while pregnant, it could lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. Graphic Reference: Microsoft Office Clipart 2002. [cited 23 June, 2005].
Now that we have discussed the effects of alcohol on your body, as well as others around you, we can discuss FAS. The fetus is fed through the placenta so every time the mother drinks, the alcohol is passed to the baby. Fetal exposure to alcohol can impair the development of the corpus callosum, which divides the brain into left and right halves, and lead to smaller brain size. The brain is developing all through the pregnancy so there is no safe time to drink. There may also be some developmental delays, poor coordination, hyperactivity and abnormal facial features. The child’s IQ could also be lower. There is no known safe amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy; therefore, no alcohol consumption is recommended. (5) Students will gain a greater understanding of FAS through research on Web sites in the next activity.
Now we have a better idea of the different types of drinking behavior, including binge drinking and chronic drinking. Drinking does have both short and long term effects on the body and behavior, for example, slower reaction times, memory loss, and problems with the nervous system and liver disease.
Alcohol is measured using a calculation known as blood alcohol levels, which measures the percent alcohol present in the blood stream. Blood alcohol levels are affected by several factors and are associated with certain behaviors and characteristics. Drinking is a personal choice, but now it will be an informed choice.