Mar 15, 2000 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Teen Drinking: It Can Spin Your World Around

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Mar 15;61(6):1887-1888.

It's not easy to “just say no” when my friends are drinking

TV and radio make it sound easy to “just say no”, but it may not be so easy for you. You have some real pressures. Maybe your friends want you to drink with them. Maybe you are stressed out at home, at school or at work. You may be looking to alcohol as a way to make people like you. But only you can make decisions about what you will or won't do. This is your chance to be your own person. If you feel you need help to say no to alcohol, then get the help you need. Talk to your family doctor or another adult you can trust.

When is drinking a problem?

Drinking is a problem if it causes trouble in your relationships with other people, your school or social activities, or the way you think or feel. A drinking problem usually starts with a person having a drink now and then. People often start drinking when they feel stressed or because their friends drink. Drinking may make you think that you will forget about your problems or feel more liked by others. But after the party or the next day, you are still the same person. You have the same problems and maybe a new one—needing alcohol.

Why should I say NO to a beer or a drink?

You should say no because alcohol is a drug and you can become addicted to it. It changes the way your mind and body work. Even one beer can slow your reactions and confuse your thinking. So anything that takes concentration and coordination—like driving—is more dangerous when you've had a drink.

Alcohol also changes the way you act. It can make you let go of your inhibitions—the feelings that normally keep you from doing risky, dangerous things. A couple of beers might make it easier for you to talk to a cute guy or girl or be the life of the party. But that beer can also lead you to make bad decisions—like having sex before you're ready or driving when you've been drinking. You might tell yourself, “Trouble won't happen to me.” But we all know people who've said that—and then ended up in the hospital, or worse.

What problems does alcohol cause?

Alcohol can ruin your health. The more you drink, the more damage is done. You can get alcohol poisoning if you drink too much too fast. As the level of alcohol in your blood goes up, the chemicals in your body can cause vomiting or seizures, or you may pass out. Alcohol can also cause stomach ulcers that can lead to internal bleeding. If you drink when you're pregnant, your baby could be born with birth defects. Cirrhosis of the liver is one of the most well-known effects of alcohol abuse. Cirrhosis stops the liver from being able to clean the toxins out of your body, which can cause a type of poisoning.

How do I know if I have a drinking problem?

Ask yourself the following questions to find out if you have a problem with alcohol. If you answer yes to any question, you may have a drinking problem:

  1. Do you sometimes drink more than you mean to?

  2. Have you tried and failed to cut back on your drinking?

  3. Do you ever have hangovers?

  4. Are you having more problems at school, at work or in your family?

  5. Do you keep drinking even though you know it causes you problems?

  6. Do you drink when you feel stressed out?

  7. Do you drink alone?

  8. Can you drink more now than you used to be able to?

  9. Do you sometimes feel guilty about drinking?

  10. Do you feel uncomfortable when you haven't had a drink for a while?

  11. Do you ever have blackouts after you've been drinking?

  12. Do you regret things that you say or do when you've been drinking?

How can I stop drinking?

The first step is to admit you have a drinking problem and get help. Talk to your family doctor, a school counselor, someone in your family or your minister or priest. The phone book is a good resource for Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups that help people quit drinking.

Where can I get more information about teenagers and drinking?

Teen Health Issues

Web site: http://health4teens.org

Contains an interactive version of this handout

Alcoholics Anonymous

Web site: http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org (or check your local phone book)

Alateen

Telephone: 1-800-356-9996

Web site: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org

Al-Anon

Telephone: 1-800-356-9996

Web site: http://www.al-anon.org

Al-Anon can help if you're worried about the drinking of a friend or family member.

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Telephone: 1-800-475-HOPE

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Telephone: 1-800-GET-MADD

Students Against Drunk Driving

(check your local phone book)


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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