‘IS IT wrong to drink? Is it really harmful? Or is it wrong only for me but all right for adults?’ These questions may very well go through your mind. After all, your parents may indulge. Many young people your age (legal age limits notwithstanding) are drinking. TV shows and movies make it look appealing.
When used moderately, alcohol can indeed be a source of pleasure. The Bible acknowledges that wine can make the heart merry or can enhance the taste of a meal. (Ecclesiastes 9:7) When misused, however, alcohol creates serious problems ranging from run-ins with parents, teachers, and police to premature death. As the Bible says: “Wine is a ridiculer, intoxicating liquor is boisterous, and everyone going astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) It is important, then, that you make a responsible decision about drinking.
But how much do you really know about alcohol and its effects? The following test will enable you to find out. Simply mark the following True or False:
1. Alcoholic beverages are predominantly stimulants ․․․․․․․․ ____
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 ․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․․ ____
Now check your answers against those given on page 270. Did some of your views on alcohol prove wrong? If so, realize that ignorance regarding alcohol can be deadly. The Bible warns us that improperly used, alcohol “bites just like a serpent, and it secretes poison just like a viper.”—Proverbs 23:32.
John, for example, married as a teenager. One night, after a fight with his young wife, he stormed out of the house, determined to get drunk. After gulping down a whole pint [0.5 L] of vodka, he fell into a coma. Were it not for the efforts of doctors and nurses, John could have died. Evidently he didn’t realize that rapidly gulping down a large amount of alcohol can even be fatal. Ignorance almost cost him his life.
The Rebound Effect
This is one of alcohol’s most insidious effects. Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. The seeming uplift you feel after you drink occurs because alcohol depresses, or brings down, your anxiety level. You feel relaxed, less anxious, less worried than before you drank. Taken in moderate quantities, alcohol can thus, to a small extent, help a person ‘forget his troubles.’ (Proverbs 31:6, 7) A youth named Paul, for instance, drank to escape from family problems. “I learned very early that drinking was a way to relieve the pressure I was under,” he recalls. “It relaxed my mind.”
No harm done, right? Wrong! Alcohol has a rebound effect. After a couple of hours, when the sedative effect of the alcohol wears off, your anxiety level bounces back—but not back to normal. It jumps up to a higher level than before you drank! You feel more anxious or more tense than ever. Alcohol withdrawal may last for up to 12 hours. True, if you have another drink, your anxiety level will again go down. But a couple of hours later, it will rise, this time higher than before! And so it goes in a vicious spiral of artificial highs and ever-lower lows.
So in the long run, alcohol will not really reduce your anxiety. It may very well increase it. And when the alcohol wears off, your problems are still there.
Others claim that alcohol helps them to function better. Dennis, for example, was extremely shy and found it difficult to hold even a simple conversation. But then he made a discovery. “After a few drinks I would loosen up,” he said.
The problem is that one matures, not by running from difficult situations, as Dennis did, but by facing them. Learning to cope with the problems you face as a youth is just a rehearsal for the trials of adulthood. Dennis thus found that, in the long run, the temporary effects of alcohol did not help him to overcome his shyness. “When the alcohol wore off, I went back into my shell,” he reports. What about now, years later? Dennis continues: “I never really learned how to communicate with people on my own true level. I think I was stunted in this way.”
The same is true of using alcohol as a crutch in dealing with stress. Joan, who did so as a teenager, admits: “Recently, in a stressful situation I thought: ‘It would be nice to have a drink right now.’ You think that you can handle a situation better with a drink.” Not so!
An article published in the New York State Journal of Medicine says: “When drugs [including alcohol] become the means of easing difficult situations—academic, social, or interpersonal—the necessity for learning healthy coping skills is removed. Effects may not be felt until adulthood, when establishing close personal relationships then often proves difficult, leaving the individual emotionally isolated.” It is far better to meet and deal with problems and difficult situations directly!
“He Would Not Take It”
Consider the example of Jesus Christ. On the final night of his earthly life, Jesus endured a terribly stressful ordeal. Betrayed, then arrested, Jesus endured a series of interrogations in which lying accusations were made against him. Finally, after having been up all night, he was handed over to be impaled.—Mark 14:43–15:15; Luke 22:47–23:25.
Jesus was then offered something that would dull his senses—a mood-altering substance that would make it easier for him to cope with this difficult situation. The Bible explains: “They tried to give him wine drugged with myrrh, but he would not take it.” (Mark 15:22, 23) Jesus wanted to be in possession of all his faculties. He wanted to face this difficult situation squarely. He was no escapist! Later, though, when offered evidently a moderate amount of undrugged wine to quench his thirst, Jesus accepted.—John 19:28-30.
In comparison, your problems, pressures, or stresses pale into insignificance. But you can still learn a valuable lesson from Jesus’ experience. Instead of using a mood-altering substance (such as alcohol) to cope with problems, pressures, and uncomfortable situations, you are much better off if you deal with them directly. The more experience you gain in facing life’s problems, the better you will become at solving them. You will grow to have a healthy emotional makeup.
When you come of legal age, whether or not you choose to drink occasionally—and in moderation—will be a decision for you (and perhaps your parents) to make. Let it be an informed decision, an intelligent decision. If you choose not to drink, you have nothing to apologize about. But if you’re of legal age and decide to drink, drink responsibly. Never drink as an escape or in order to gain artificial courage. The Bible’s advice is simple and straightforward: “Drinking too much makes you loud and foolish. It’s stupid to get drunk.”—Proverbs 20:1, Today’s English Version.
Questions for Discussion
◻ Why do many youths become involved in drinking alcoholic beverages?
◻ What are some common misconceptions about alcohol?
◻ What are the dangers in mixing driving and drinking?
◻ What are the dangers of using alcohol in order to escape from problems?
◻ What should a youth do when he encounters problems, and why?
[Blurb on page 268]
Drinking can trap a young person in a vicious spiral of artificial highs and ever-lower lows
[Blurb on page 271]
“I never really learned how to communicate with people on my own true level. I think I was stunted in this way.”—A young man who abused alcohol as a teenager
[Box on page 264]
‘Why We Started Drinking’
An interview with some former teenage drinkers
Interviewer: Why did you drink?
Bill: For me, at first it was the group I was in. It was the “in” thing to do, especially on weekends.
Dennis: I started drinking at about age 14 or so. My father was a pretty heavy drinker. There were always cocktail parties at the house. As a child I saw that drinking was the thing to do socially. Then, when I got older, I got in with a wild crowd. I used to drink to be accepted by the other kids.
Mark: I was involved in sports. I guess I started drinking at about age 15 with the guys on the basketball team. It was mainly, I think, curiosity.
Joan: I was affected very much by what I saw on TV. I used to see the characters drinking. It looked so great.
Paul: My father is an alcoholic. Now I can see that the reason we had so many problems was the alcoholism. I was trying to escape from it. Ironically, that’s one reason I turned to drinking.
Joan: My parents usually didn’t drink much. But I remember one thing about my dad, on social occasions he used to brag about how much he could drink. I kind of developed that attitude—thinking I was unique. One time my friends and I went on a drinking binge. For hours we were drinking. It really didn’t affect me like the others. I remember thinking, ‘I’m just like my dad.’ I guess his attitude about alcohol really did affect me.
Interviewer: But why do many drink to the point of intoxication?
Mark: That’s the reason we drank—to get drunk. I really didn’t care for the taste.
Interviewer: So you drank for the effect?
Harry: I’d say the same thing. It’s like climbing a ladder. Each time you drink you’re reaching for a better high—the next rung on the ladder.
[Box on page 270]
Answers to True or False Test (Page 263)
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 are generally 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 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 has a far greater effect than you might imagine. Indeed, the effect of the drug is multiplied three times, four times, ten times, or even more!
8. FALSE. Drunkenness is a result of 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, and from there it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
[Box/Pictures on page 266, 267]
Driving and Drinking—A Deadly Combination
“Drunk driving is the leading cause of death for young people aged 16-24,” says the 1984 Report on the National Conference for Youth on Drinking and Driving. Indeed, “a teenager is four times more likely to have an alcohol-related crash than any other driver.” (Just Along for the Ride) Such needless carnage is in part due to the persistence of many myths about the effects of alcohol. Here are a few typical examples:
MYTH: It’s safe to drive if all you’ve had is a couple of beers.
FACT: “The alcohol in two 12-ounce [355 cc] cans of beer consumed in less than an hour can slow a driver’s reaction by 2/5ths of a second—allowing an automobile traveling at 55 miles per hour [90 km/hr] to travel an additional 34 feet [10 m]—possibly the difference between a near miss and a crash.”—Development of a Traffic Safety and Alcohol Program for Senior Adults, by James L. Malfetti, Ed.D., and Darlene J. Winter, Ph.D.
MYTH: It’s OK to drive as long as you don’t feel drunk.
FACT: It’s dangerous to rely on how you feel. Alcohol creates an illusion of well-being, making the drinker feel that he’s in control, when in fact his abilities have been diminished.
Dangerous as it is for anyone to mix drinking and driving, it’s even riskier for youths. The driving performance of youths who are drinking “worsens more rapidly than that of adults because driving is a newer and less routine skill for them. In short, most teenagers are both inexperienced drivers and inexperienced drinkers, and even more inexperienced at combining drinking and driving.”—Senior Adults, Traffic Safety and Alcohol Program Leader’s Guide, by Darlene J. Winter, Ph.D.
It also takes less alcohol to intoxicate a youth than an adult. Youths generally weigh less than adults, and the less a person weighs, the less fluid there is in his body to dilute the alcohol he consumes. The higher the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream, the more intoxicated you become.
“Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) Given the dangers of mixing drinking and driving, you are “shrewd” if you promise yourself not to mix the two. You can thus not only spare yourself crippling—or fatal—injuries but also show respect for the lives of others.
You should further resolve that you will (1) never get in a car with a driver who’s been drinking and (2) never let a friend drive if he’s been drinking. This may upset your friend, but he may appreciate what you did once he comes to his senses.—Compare Psalm 141:5.
Never get in a car with a driver who’s been drinking, and never let a friend drive if he’s been drinking
[Pictures on page 262]
Peers, television, and sometimes even parents can influence youths to begin drinking
[Picture on page 265]
Alcohol, when misused, can ‘bite like a snake’
[Pictures on page 269]
Drinking and driving often leads to this