Alcohol consumption affects your entire body. Over time, regular alcohol consumption can cause damage to your organs. In short bursts, alcohol is most commonly known to impair your judgment.

Alcohol is a depressant; it will affect the neurotransmitter glutamate and increases the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. What that means: alcohol slows down your body.

The factors that influence the affects of alcohol on the body vary. A few of them may include:

  • A person’s gender
  • A person’s genetic makeup
  • How often a person drinks
  • How long a person has consumed alcohol
  • How much a person has consumed in a period of time

How it Affects the Organs:

Brain:

Alcohol makes it harder for your brain to communicate your thought processes, your movements, and your emotions. Therefore, you don’t thoroughly consider the consequences of your actions, you react at a slower pace, and you’re off balance in your coordination.

Liver:

The liver is largest organ in the human body and it has hundreds of roles. Excessive and regular drinking can cause serious damage to your liver and might lead to liver disease. Common symptom of liver disease include:

  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pains
  • Nausea

Damage is reversible. The best way to give your liver a break is to cut back on drinking. Try to keep sober during the weekdays. Doing this will not only help your liver, but it’ll lower the risk of dependency.

Heart:

Research has emphasized the benefits and the downfalls of alcohol to your heart. Excessive and regular drinking has been linked to cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that weakens your heart by blocking the blood flow.

However, research has also shown that moderate drinking can actually lower your risk of heart disease. In a Danish study of over 12,000 people, it was found that people who consume a drink a day are less likely to develop heart disease.

How Specific Factors Affect Your Body’s Reaction to Alcohol

Gender

Women process alcohol differently

  • The reason for this is the difference in enzyme levels. The enzyme that works your metabolism is found in significantly higher proportions in men. Therefore, if a man and woman drink the same amount, the woman’s blood alcohol content will be approximately 7% higher than the man’s.

Women bodies are composed differently

  • Overall bodyweight affects how quickly alcohol is processed. Men tend to weigh more than women.
  • Women tend to have more fat stored in their bodies. More fat means that there is more alcohol in the blood stream.
  • Men have more muscle mass, which means they have a larger blood flow through the tissue. The higher blood flow makes the alcohol more diluted.
  • Men have more water in their bodies. Therefore, less fluid in the body means that there is a higher concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Genetic Makeup

  • Alcohol addiction is commonly found within generations of families. However, there is no alcoholism gene.
  • Genes are responsible for about 50% of the risk for alcoholism. This means that you may be more susceptible to an addiction to alcohol if it runs in your family, but it does not guarantee that you will become an alcoholic.
  • There are several other factors that create an addiction to alcohol, such as your environment.

Moderate Alcohol Use

  • If you are a woman, keep it to no more than one drink a day.
  • If you are a man, keep it to no more than two drinks a day.
  • One drink is measured as follows: one beer (12 fluid ounces), one glass of wine (five fluid ounces) or one spirit (1.5 fluid ounces).

Drunk Driving

You can measure the amount of alcohol it takes you to become intoxicated by using a Blood Alcohol Content calculator. The blood alcohol content calculator takes into account your gender, height, and weight. Remember that the legal limit for the state of Utah is below a .08. Any alcohol in your system is potentially dangerous. If you plan to drink, make sure to have a designated driver with you or available to come pick you up. If your party all plans to drink, make sure you have the number to a cab service.

Alcohol can drastically lower your driving abilities. It causes:

  • Impaired vision
    • If you notice your vision has become blurry, do not get behind a wheel. A test to follow is your ability to walk into a straight line.
  • Delayed reactions
    • Remember, alcohol is a depressant and you body moves slower because of it. While driving, delayed reactions are dangerous.
  • Impaired focus
    • Driving requires focus on the road at all times. If you have trouble concentrating, you will not be able to obey driving laws or even stay within your lane.
  • Difficulty in multi-tasking
    • While driving, you are keeping your eyes on the road, your foot on the peddle, your hands on the wheel, etc. Alcohol makes it difficult to do more than one thing at once.
  • Drowsiness
    • Being on the road requires vigilance. Alcohol inhibits your ability to be alert.

Consequences

In the state of Utah, there is a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking. If you are not 21, it is not legal for you to be drinking. In Utah, there is an Implied Consent Law. This law requires for you to agree to a Breathalyzer test if you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving. If you refuse the test, you will automatically have an 18-month suspension of your license.

If you decide to drink and drive, there are several consequences:

First offense:

  • Minimum 48 hours in jail
  • Minimum $700 fine
  • License suspended for 120 days

Second offense:

  • Minimum 240 hours in jail
  • Minimum $800 fine
  • License suspended for 2 years

Third Offense:

  • Minimum 1, 500 hours in jail
  • Minimum 1,500 fine
  • License suspended for 2 years

On your third offense, you will also be required to take a screening and assessment at a substance abuse treatment center.

There are occasions when the judge will allow community service instead of jail time. In addition to the $700 fine, you might also need to pay to take required classes on drinking and driving and on the use of alcohol and drugs.

Underage drinking:

According the National Institute on alcohol abuse and Alcoholism, a study was conducted in 2003 that measured the average age of when people began to drink: 14 years old. This a dramatic fall in age, compared to 1965 when the age was 17 and a half. The same research concluded that individuals who drink at a young age are at a greater risk for alcoholism. Underage drinkers are more likely to engage in risky behavior when they are intoxicated. The brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. Therefore, early underage drinking can damage brain development. Also, adolescents who drink before or during puberty are more likely to disrupt their growth hormones, which develop their organs, muscles and bones.

Why Does Underage Drinking Happen?

Rebels Without A Cause:

  • When children hit puberty, they begin to steadily develop their identities. Most find an adrenaline rush in risk-taking and will try to seek potentially harmful situations. An example is alcohol. Teenagers tend to feel invincible and don’t fully think through the consequences of their actions.

Need to Feel Socially Accepted:

  • Teenagers, while trying to develop their identities, are usually really vulnerable to peer pressure. They want to feel like they are a part of a group, that their presence is accepted and wanted. Therefore, in an attempt to fit in, they experiment with behaviors that they see their peers experimenting in. An easy example is alcohol.

Tolerance to Alcohol:

  • The brains of teenagers are in development, more so than someone who is older. They experience alcohol differently; they are more likely to experience the positive effects, an example being confidence. They are also able to drink more alcohol without feeling the negative effects (drowsiness) because of the same reasons.

 What To Do as Parents

  • Talk to your children. Let them know that you understand the pressures they are going to face.
  • Teach them the effects of alcohol (and the dangers of drinking at a young age) and encourage them to make their own decisions, without the pressure of others.
  • Know where your child is. Know whom they are choosing to associate with.
  • Let them decide on their own about the life choices they want to make. If you hover too closely, you could face a lot of resistance.
  • Ultimately, let them know that you are there if they need you. During puberty, children tend to push away from their parents. Don’t be too worried; it is normal. Let them live their lives knowing they have your support.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

 

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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