I Don't Need to Drink to Have a Good Time, and Neither Do You!
By Briana, age 18, Pennsylvania
Over the 18 years of my young life, I am happy to say that I've created countless, priceless memories that will last a lifetime, none of which have included the use of alcohol. What I hate to say is that there are probably just as many high school students that drink on a regular basis as there are memories I have made.
Not only have I heard numerous stories on the news, in magazines, and on the internet, but I have heard stories firsthand at my alma mater. Out of the 93 students in my graduating class, I would estimate that at least 50 to 70 of them have been drunk or get drunk on a regular basis. When I realized this I was overwhelmed. Being naive to this entire community of alcohol, sex, drugs, and parties, I didn't have a clue how many of my classmates knew a lot about these activities, let alone engaging in them.
As I continued my high school career, I became frightened to learn how many of my friends were doing these things that I didn't even know about. When I heard them talking about getting drunk and partying with their other friends I was saddened. How much fun is going out with your friends if you don't remember anything the next morning? To me, that would be just a waste of life! Also, I would wonder, Why put yourself in so much danger just to "loosen up"? I've never understood the point and I still don't! My life has been so great so far, and I have NEVER been drunk or even taken a sip of alcohol (with the exception of tasting champagne on New Year's with my family)!
My friends and I at my graduation party! And sober!
The worst thing I have realized is that, not only are the numbers of teens seriously affected by alcohol increasing, but teens today are basically being encouraged to drink by the media. Television shows, movies, music, celebrities, and even books showcase teenagers drinking, doing drugs, and having sex at very young ages. Shows like Gossip Girl are completely focused on underage kids engaging in these activities. Although the show is intriguing and entertaining, it is giving teens the idea that they should be like Serena and Blair and party every night, and even have sex with multiple partners. In order to prevent underage teens from mimicking these actions, the media needs to tone it down and be stricter with their viewers.
Why Is Drinking Bad?
Drinking more than a small amount, regardless of your age, is detrimental to your health. Familydoctor.org lists some of the harmful things alcohol abuse can do to your body.
♥ You can get alcohol poisoning if you drink too much. This could lead to vomiting, seizures, or passing out.
♥ Cirrhosis of the liver ("stops the liver from being able to clean the toxins (poisons) out of your body.")
♥ Stomach ulcers which lead to internal bleeding
♥ Make you gain weight
♥ Make you feel sick or dizzy
♥ Give you bad breath
♥ Make you clumsy
♥ Slur your speech
♥ Make your skin break out
♥ Make you feel out of control
Drinking can also affect you mentally and emotionally. If you are drunk and don't know what you're doing, you may say or do things that could ruin a relationship, hurt someone's feelings, or harm your reputation. For example, you could do something that could affect your getting into college or getting a job in the future.
Drinking can also affect you indirectly. Many teens are killed each year in drunk driving accidents. Whether they are the ones driving, are in the car, or in an opposing car, it is a very serious matter which could be avoided if underage drinking were lessened.
What You Can Do
If you want to steer clear of becoming a victim of alcohol abuse:
1. Get yourself in with the right crowd. Don't surround yourself with friends who party and drink. You'll be more tempted to participate just because "everyone else is doing it" or because your friends are pressuring you.
2. Don't let yourself be susceptible to others. Be your own person and make your own decisions. If your friends are pressuring you to drink with them, let them know your opinion, and if they don't like you for that then they don't deserve you as a friend!
3. If you're getting the idea that drinking will make you popular, realize that being "popular" is not as important as your well being. Instead of changing yourself to get other people to like you, find people who like you for YOU, and won't pressure you to be like them.
If you are already a victim of alcohol abuse and want to sober up:
1. The first step is to admit you have a problem. To confirm you have a problem, familydoctor.org gives this list of questions.
Ask yourself the following questions to find out if you have a problem with alcohol. If you answer "yes" to any one of them, you may have a drinking problem.
1. Do you sometimes drink more than you mean to?
2. Have you tried to cut back on your drinking and failed?
3. Do you black out (have trouble remembering things that happened) while drinking?
4. Have your problems at school, work, or with your relationships gotten worse since you started drinking?
5. Do you keep drinking even though you know it's causing problems?
6. Do you drink when you feel stressed?
7. Do you drink alone?
8. Can you drink much more now than you used to be able to?
9. Do you ever feel uncomfortable when you haven't had a drink?
10. Do you drink even when it's important to stay sober?
2. Talk to a relative, school counselor, doctor, or someone else who can help you. So many teens have ruined or even lost their lives due to drinking and you don't want to be one of them! Get someone you can talk to and can help you break your habit.
Don't be afraid to talk to your parents. Even if they don't know about your problem, they're going to want to help you break the habit. They may be disappointed in you or angry with you, but in the end, they're your parents, they love you, and they will want to help you.
3. Call a hotline or contact an organization such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Attending weekly meetings or other gatherings will help motivate you to stop drinking. It's important that you are consistent when participating in things like this because if not you'll just make it harder on yourself. You can contact AA through their website (www.aa.org), or call their hotline (212-870-3400).
If you want to help others making bad decisions:
1. Be a good friend. If your friend talks about drinking or you notice them developing a drinking problem, try talking to them and encouraging them to stop. If they are unresponsive and you feel they are harming themselves, contact their parent, or tell a teacher or counselor at your school. It's better that someone knows who can really help them. Even if your friend gets mad at you for "telling", the more important thing is that you did what you felt was best for them.
2. Join your schools SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) program. In this club, students encourage good behavior and help kids who are having issues with their decisions. If you don't have a SADD committee at your school, talk to a teacher or principal about starting one. If you can't do that, look for other ways you can help in your community.
3. Spread the word. Make ways to get your classmates to stay away from drinking. Throw an awesome party without alcohol to show that you can have a good time without being drunk. Get others involved as well. Host an event that is fun and informative to prevent underage drinking and alcohol abuse.
The truth about just how many students are drinking underage is scary. According to SADD "In 2005, about 10.8 million persons ages 12-20 (28.2% of this age group) reported drinking alcohol in the past month. Nearly 7.2 million (18.8%) were binge drinkers, and 2.3 million (6.0%) were heavy drinkers."
More statistics and more information about SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions)