Young People Ask . . .
To make a responsible decision about drinking, you really need to know the facts about alcohol and how it can affect you. But when it comes to alcohol, many people have more feelings than facts. What about you? How about taking a little test? Mark the following statements True or False. The answers appear on page 14.
True or False
1. Alcoholic beverages are predominantly a stimulant ‐‐‐
2. Alcohol in any quantity is damaging to the human body ‐‐‐
3. All alcoholic beverages—liquor, wine, beer—are absorbed into your bloodstream at the same rate ‐‐‐
4. A person can sober up more quickly if he drinks black coffee or takes a cold shower ‐‐‐
5. Alcohol in the same amount has the same effect on everybody who drinks ‐‐‐
6. Drunkenness is the same as alcoholism ‐‐‐
7. Alcohol and other sedative drugs (such as barbiturates), when taken together, multiply each other’s effects ‐‐‐
8. Switching drinks will keep a person from getting drunk ‐‐‐
9. The body digests alcohol just like food ‐‐‐
10. It’s risky to drive a car right after you’ve had a drink or two ‐‐‐
WELL, how did you do? Did you learn something? Really, though, this is far more than just an academic test. Knowing the facts about alcohol is a serious matter. If you know the pitfalls, you can avoid them. The Bible warns: “At its end it [wine or alcohol, when you overindulge] bites just like a serpent, and it secretes poison just like a viper.”—Proverbs 23:32.
The case of a young man named John in the northeastern United States well illustrates how alcohol, when misused, can ‘bite like a snake.’ John had married as a teenager. One night he had a fight with his young wife and stormed out of the house. He set out to get drunk. After gulping down a whole pint (nearly half a liter) of vodka, he fell into a coma. Were it not for the efforts of doctors and nurses, John would have died. Evidently John didn’t realize that rapidly gulping down a large amount of alcohol can be fatal. Ignorance about alcohol’s effects almost cost him his life.
But that’s not all. Apparently John thought that he could drown his problems in alcohol, that somehow they would go away. And in this he’s not alone. When asked by Awake! why they had got involved in drinking, a number of young people responded: ‘To escape.’ Escape from what? From pressures at home. Others said that they drink because they can’t handle school or some other problem. So getting high is an escape.
But is it? Again, it’s helpful to know a little about how alcohol can affect you.
The Rebound Effect
When you drink, alcohol depresses your brain by diminishing, or putting down, your anxiety level. That means you feel relaxed, less anxious, less worried than before you drank. Suddenly your problems don’t seem so bad. Thus, the Bible says: “Give intoxicating liquor, you people, to the one about to perish.” Why? As the proverb says, that he may ‘forget his troubles.’*—Proverbs 31:6, 7.
Paul experienced this. He’s a young man who as a teenager drank to escape from family problems. “I learned very early that drinking was a way to relieve the pressure I was under,” recalls Paul. “It relaxed my mind.” If that were all, you might think that drinking to get relief isn’t such a bad idea, that there’s no great harm done. After all, when the alcohol wears off, your level of anxiety goes back to normal, right?
Wrong! Alcohol has a rebound effect. Psychotherapist Dr. Stanley E. Gitlow explains: “As the short-term sedative effect wears off, the other effect of alcohol, increased psychomotor activity, becomes apparent. No one in this world can get a sedative effect from any known drug without it being followed by an agitating effect which wears off more slowly.”
What that means is this: After a couple of hours, when the sedative effect of the alcohol wears off, your anxiety level bounces back, but to a higher level than before you drank. So you feel more anxious or more tense than before you drank at all. What you’re experiencing is withdrawal from alcohol, and it may last for up to 12 hours after you’ve been drinking.
If you now have another drink, you’ll feel relief, that is, your anxiety level will again go down. But a couple of hours later, it will rise, this time higher than ever! And so it goes. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to have this rebound effect. Anyone can, if he drinks enough.
So, overall, alcohol doesn’t really reduce anxiety but may increase it. More than that, though, when the alcohol wears off, your problems are still there, as big or even bigger than ever! So using alcohol as an escape is really not a good idea.
Of course that’s not to say that it’s wrong occasionally for persons of legal age to drink moderately. No, the Bible gives a very balanced view of drinking. For example, it rightly acknowledges that wine puts the heart in “a merry mood.” (Esther 1:10) At the same time, it straightforwardly advises: “Drinking too much makes you loud and foolish. It’s stupid to get drunk.”—Proverbs 20:1, Today’s English Version.
This is not to suggest that the Bible endorses the idea of drowning one’s problems in alcohol. The scripture is merely speaking of the appropriateness of giving intoxicating liquor to a person about to die, to help him to forget his trouble. Note also that in the previous verses kings were counseled not to drink wine or intoxicating liquor when officiating, lest they “forget what is decreed and pervert the cause of any of the sons of affliction.”—Proverbs 31:4, 5.
[Box on page 14]
Answers to True or False Test
1. FALSE. Alcohol is predominantly a depressant. It can make you high in that it depresses, or reduces, your anxiety level, making you feel relaxed, less anxious than before you drank.
2. FALSE. Drinking moderate or small amounts of alcohol does not appear to do any serious harm to the body. However, prolonged and heavy drinking can damage the heart, brain, liver and other organs.
3. FALSE. Liquor or spirits generally are absorbed faster than wine or beer.
4. FALSE. Coffee can wake you up, and a cold shower can make you wet, but alcohol continues in your bloodstream until it is metabolized by your liver at the rate of about one half ounce of alcohol per hour.
5. FALSE. A number of factors such as your body weight and whether you’ve eaten or not can influence how alcohol affects you.
6. FALSE. “Drunkenness” describes the result of overconsumption. “Alcoholism” is a disorder that is characterized by a loss of control over drinking. However, not everyone who gets drunk is an alcoholic, and not all alcoholics get drunk.
7. TRUE. When mixed with alcohol, some drugs greatly exaggerate the usual reactions expected from alcohol or from the drug alone. For example, mixing alcohol and tranquilizers or sedatives could result in severe withdrawal symptoms, coma and even death. Thus, one drink plus one pill does not equal the effect of two drinks or two pills. Rather, the effect of the drug is multiplied three times, four times, ten times, or even more.
8. FALSE. Drunkenness is determined by the total amount of alcohol consumed, whether it’s in gin, whiskey, vodka, or whatever.
9. FALSE. Alcohol doesn’t have to be digested slowly the way most other foods must be. Rather, about 20 percent immediately passes through the walls of the stomach into the bloodstream. The rest goes from the stomach to the small intestine where it is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
10. TRUE. Under certain circumstances, even one drink can affect your judgment, interfere with your normal reactions and cause you to take needless chances. However, it usually takes just two ordinary-sized drinks within a few minutes to produce driving impairment in most persons.
[Picture on page 13]
Alcohol, when misused, can ‘bite like a snake’