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Health Raps: Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol affects your brain. Drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.

Alcohol affects your body. Alcohol can damage every organ in your body. It is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and can increase your risk for a variety of life-threatening diseases, including cancer.

Alcohol affects your self-control. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, lowers your inhibitions, and impairs your judgment. Drinking can lead to risky behaviors, including having unprotected sex. This may expose you to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases or cause unwanted pregnancy.Alcohol can kill you. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to coma or even death. Also, more than 30 percent of traffic deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds each year were alcohol-related.

Alcohol can hurt you--even if you're not the one drinking. If you're around people who are drinking, you have an increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in car crashes, or affected by violence. At the very least, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.

Alcohol mixed with medications or illicit drugs is extremely dangerous. It can lead to accidental death and severe illness. For example, alcohol-medication interactions may be a factor in at least 25 percent of emergency room admissions

Before you decide to take a drinkĀ…think about this!!

  • It is illegal to buy or possess alcohol if you are under 21.
  • One drink can make you fail a breath test.
  • You can lose your driver's license, get a heavy fine, or have your car permanently taken away.
  • Alcohol can make you gain weight and give you bad breath.

Look around you. Most teens aren't drinking alcohol. Research shows that 70 percent of people 12-20 haven't had a drink in the past month.

How can you tell if you or someone you know has a drinking problem? Sometimes it's tough to tell. But there are signs you can look for. If one or more of the following warning signs is present, there may be a problem with alcohol:

  • Getting drunk on a regular basis or "Binge Drinking" (having five or more drinks at one occasion)
  • Lying about how much alcohol is being used
  • Believing that alcohol is necessary to have fun
  • Having frequent hangovers
  • Feeling run-down, depressed, or even suicidal
  • Having "blackouts"--forgetting what is done while drinking
  • Having problems at school or getting in trouble with the law

What can you do to help someone who has a drinking problem? Be a real friend. You might even save a life. Encourage your friend to stop or seek professional help. For information and referrals, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 800-729-6686.

The bottom line: If you know someone who has a problem with alcohol, urge him or her to stop or get help. If you drink--stop! The longer you ignore the real facts, the more chances you take with your life.

It's never too late. Talk to your parents, a doctor, a counselor, a teacher, or another adult you trust.

"Health Raps: Alcohol Abuse" was produced in September of 2004. For the most recently updated health information, consult a physician and visit