Every year, more money is spent on advertising alcohol than any other consumer product. These images usually show well-built men surrounded by very attractive women all holding a particular alcoholic beverage. For men, the message is “If I drink this alcohol, I can get all kinds of beautiful ladies.” For women, the message is “If I drink this alcohol, I will look very sexy and good looking guys will be attracted to me.” These advertisements couldn’t be further from the truth. Alcohol is the most commonly used and widely abused drug in the world. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholism, an addiction to alcohol which is a chronic and sometimes deadly disease.
Dangers of alcohol
Drinking alcohol significantly impairs judgment and coordination. This can lead to many high-risk behaviors that can be harmful and even fatal. Other undesirable effects of alcohol include:
- Alcohol-related Illnesses: Problems with the liver, pancreas, heart and brain
- Alcohol Poisoning: Binge (uncontrolled) drinking in colleges and universities have caused many deaths in young people.
- Drunk Driving: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20. Most of these deaths are alcohol related.
- Suicide: Alcohol use, when combined with depression and stress, contributes to suicide, the third leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 14 and 25.
- Sexual Assault: Sexual assault, including rape, occurs most often among women in late adolescence and early adulthood. Date rape frequently happens when alcohol is involved.
- High-Risk Sex: Research has linked adolescent alcohol use with high-risk sex, such as multiple partners or unprotected sex. The consequences of high-risk sex are unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
How to tell if someone has a drinking problem
- Getting drunk all the time
- Frequent hangovers – headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light
- Having “blackouts” or can’t remember what happened while drinking
- Must drink to have fun
- Lying about how much he/she has had to drink
- Frequently misses school or work
- Always getting in trouble at school, at home, or with the law
How to help someone with a drinking problem
Ask the person to talk to someone they can trust about the problem- a counselor, teacher, parent, healthcare provider, or spiritual leader. Encourage and support the person to seek professional help. For more information on alcohol and health:
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration www.samhsa.gov/atod/alcohol
- Boston University School of Public Health