Monday, April 2, 2012

Youth Drinking Trends and Ways to Encourage Healthy Habits

Alcohol doesn't necessarily carry the same stigmas associated with illegal drugs. However, studies reveal that more American youths die from alcohol abuse than from all other forms of drug abuse combined. With deteriorating affects on the brain, stomach, and liver, the affects of alcohol are highly damaging to the developing body of a teenager. Of course, there are long-term effects of alcohol abuse, but equally as dangerous are the immediate consequences of binge drinking. Binge drinking is a form of heavy, episodic drinking that has proven to be a trend among college-aged individuals. Recognizing the phenomenon, the National Advisory Council provided the following definition:
"A 'binge' is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram-percent or above. For a typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours."
When binge drinking, the body's defenses are overwhelmed by the depressant effects of alcohol resulting in impairments in speech and reflexes. Aside from the physical effects, the influence of alcohol will leave people unable to make rational decisions thus leading to unfortunate consequences. Studies reported by the national campaign, "Above the Influence" expose that approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking related incidents (with nearly 2,000 of the deaths due to car accidents.)
Another threat to underage drinking is alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is a serious-sometimes lethal- condition resultant from binge drinking. The consequences of consuming large amounts of alcohol in brief periods of time can immediately affect one's heart rate and breathing and may eventually lead to coma or death.
When examining the trends in youth drinking, a direct correlation can be drawn between habits and environment. The pressure to drink irresponsibly is perpetuated by the atmosphere. In college, young adults are experiencing their first taste of independence (a sensation which is intoxicating in and of itself.) It can take time to develop healthy habits for self-governing and, in the meanwhile, young adults should be made aware of the possible consequences of their actions.
There have been multiple gestures made by governmental organizations to encourage self-promoting habits among the nation's youth. For one, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion employed April as "Alcohol Awareness Month" in an attempt to have a pro-active influence on future choice making. In correspondence with Alcohol Awareness Month, the National Health Information Center distributed a toolkit including strategies to cut back on or cease drinking altogether. Some of these strategies included:
* Keep track of your drinking and set a drinking limit.
* Try to avoid places where heavy drinking occurs.
* Ask for help from a doctor, family, or friends.
* If you keep alcohol in your home, keep only a limited supply.
Also in the April awareness toolkit were suggestions for spreading awareness throughout the media via social networking sites. By being informative and persistent, the organization hopes to inspire nation-wide awareness. These gestures, though seemingly humble, may save lives by encouraging America's youth to make smart, healthy choices.

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