Alcohol Abuse In America Essay, Research Paper
Alcohol Abuse in America
Teenage drinking has a storied past in the United States. Alcohol was first introduced to America by the European traders and colonists. Most people instantly fell in love with this new drink. The one-hundred and fifty years between the Colonial period and the Revolutionary War was when alcohol really became popular. Alcohol was considered as a “Good Creature of God”. It was used as a medicine and considered a tool for relaxation and good fellowship.
This conception of alcohol changed drastically in the mid 1800’s. People started becoming concerned about the misuses of alcohol and the side effects occurring from drinking alcohol. This era was known as the “Demon Rum” era. Temperance groups urged moderation in the drinking of alcohol and were sincere and dedicated to finding a solution to the misuse of alcohol. This group sought out laws for prohibition and abstinence of alcohol. They urged the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act. The Eighteenth Amendment was passed in 1919 and prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. The prohibition was considered a failure because it was not strictly enforced and a black market of alcohol formed. The Eighteenth Amendment was then repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933. This amendment repealed the prohibition on alcohol and made it legal for citizens of the United States to possess and manufacture alcohol.
A new perspective had then formed on the idea of alcohol. It was a compromise between the “Good Creature of God” and the “Demon Rum” era. This perspective was known as “disease concept of alcoholism”. People felt that alcohol was acceptable for most individuals, but there was a small majority where alcohol could act as an addictive poison. However, whatever stand one takes on the issue, whether it be that alcohol is good or bad, you have to realize that America has to find a solution to teenage drinking because it can lead to physical defects and even death (Lang 22).
While drinking alcohol might shape one’s image, it plays terror on the sensory organs for a short time frame. Alcohol is passed to the nerve cells interfering with concentration and judgment skills. The state systems have a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration), a rating scale which determines impairment. In most states, legally drunk is at .08 percent. At .08 percent, the law says sensory capabilities are unable to work at one-hundred percent. For an average person, it takes up to two hours to metabolize or eliminate a standard-sized beer, glass of wine, or single shot of hard liquor (Lang 39).
Intoxication is another short term effect of alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and its effects concentrate on the brain and nervous system. These reactions center mostly on one’s speech and the ability to walk straight during this period of drunkenness. Vomiting and impulsive behaviors also occur. People who have had little to drink are aroused and excited, but people who have had more than their tolerance can stand become depressed because they don’t know when to stop drinking (Lang 44).
After one has been drinking, they will then experience a hangover. The hangover consists of a headache, fatigue, upset stomach, thirst, anxiety, depression and irritability. Hangovers are caused by the buildup of toxic acetaldehyde after drinking and the chemical impurities in alcoholic beverages. The only cure for a hangover is to wait it out and try to get some rest (Lang 53).
Long-term effects come on as the addiction of tolerance increases. This means the person requires more and more drinks in order to satisfy their need for alcohol. If they consume the same amount of alcohol as when they first started drinking a long time ago, that amount would not phase them because their tolerance for alcohol has risen. There are many other tolerances other than that of addiction of tolerance. Metabolic tolerance is when the person does not maintain as high a BAC as non tolerant people. Behavioral tolerance is when the person needs to have more drinks to feel the high that they use to feel. One final type of tolerance is that of cross-tolerance. This causes reduced responsiveness to other drugs (Lang 57).
A chronic drinker is a more serious drinker. Chronic drinking kills many more brain cells and changes the brain structure and reduces the blood supply to the brain. This drinking robs the body of the essential vitamins the brain needs to function such as Vitamin B and thiamin. It also damages the central nervous system over a period of time resulting in the loss of some memory and coordination. In addition, it causes occasional blackouts, which are associated with permanent brain damage. It also develops scar tissue on the liver due to chronic drinking. It can even cause a liver dysfunction, Hepatitis, which can be fatal. Chronic drinking can also lead to malnutrition, the lack of stored calories for the rebuilding of the body (Lang 60).
The final and saddest long-term effect is FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). This occurs when a woman absorbs alcohol into her system which travels to the woman’s fetus and placenta, which nourish the developing unborn child. The child is introduced to alcohol and the consequences of alcohol intoxication the mother experiences. The fetus does not have the same tolerance as the mother. The impact on the fetus from the alcohol is much greater than that of the mother due to its sensitive growth and development. The deficiencies the infant will face are the following: central nervous system problems (mental retardation), growth deficiencies in growth and weight before and after birth, facial abnormalities and poorly formed organs, and possible death. The effects of long-term drinking are very serious (Lang 62).
The opposition is somewhat surprising to most people. Alcohol can actually better your health. News reports state that people who drink one or two drinks a day have lower blood pressure and live longer than those who do not. These reports also state that wine raises the good blood cholesterol that prevents the build up of fat in the human arteries. One could assume that the earlier you start drinking, in moderation that is, the better your health will be and you could live longer (Apple 1).
One could also rebut that teenage drinking and adult drinking are getting better. Since 1981 the per capita consumption of alcohol beverages has declined (Tapley 1). The percentage of alcohol related crashes has also declined. In 1980, forty-nine percent of teenage automotive crashes were caused by alcohol. In 1999, the percentage has dramatically decreased to twenty-two percent. This decline is even greater than that of older adult drivers (Violence 1).
Alcohol has been around for thousands of years, and was and still is perceived as good by most people. Most people like to think that alcohol supplies them with a break from the every day demanding life. In the past, alcohol was actually encouraged by priests and other townspeople (Lang 23).
Today teenage drinking is not encouraged, but it is not discouraged. There are solutions to make teenage drinking and adult drinking safer. Experts from the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Council of Alcoholism suggest ways to help prevent teenagers from abusing alcohol or from even starting to drink alcohol. It is shown that the earlier people start drinking, the greater the consequences will be in the long run. They suggest to talk to your kids between the ages of nine and eleven. Set good examples for your children. Adults should be factual when they talk about drinking, don’t try to scare them to death. Set rules for drinking and set consequences if the rules are abused. The more family activities there are, the less chance a teenager has to drink. Basically, if we talk to the youth about drinking, lives could be saved (Wisconsin 1).
Other solutions are also available. Curfews could be given to teenagers which would cut back on their chances to drink irresponsibly. Also, in order to start your car, you would have to pass a breathalyzer. This would make it impossible for a drunk driver to get behind the wheel, sparing a considerable amount of lives. Anybody can sign the SADD’s (Students Against Drunk Driving) Contract for Life. This contract states that if a person is going to drink, to arrange for a designated driver (Vogler 126). Education about alcohol could even be taught in school to make the students aware of its short and long term effects it can have on the body. If the American people are educated, the young and old, most of the problems related to alcohol could be solved.
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