April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Who do you think drinks more as an underage kid – boys or girls? According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among youth aged 12 to 17, the percentage of females who are current drinkers (13.2%) was higher than their male counterparts (12.6%). Research also shows that while alcohol use is almost equal, alcohol’s impact on their bodies and brains is not.

Females are more vulnerable to alcohol’s effect than males, and here are the reasons:

Females have less water in their bodies to help dilute alcohol in the bloodstream.

Females absorb alcohol at a slower rate.

Females produce less alcohol dehydrogenase, a gastric enzyme that breaks down ethanol in the stomach, that otherwise is toxic.

So, what does the above mean? It means that if you put a male and a female of about the same size and weight, drinking the same amount of alcohol, the female will have a higher concentration of alcohol in her blood. So picture the young woman who challenges the young man to go drink-for-drink. She is going to become intoxicated quicker and be more susceptible to alcohol poisoning.

With research comes knowledge, and here’s what we now know. Alcohol can be damaging to the developing adolescent brain – regardless of gender. And yet, again, females are more sensitive to alcohol-induced brain damage. Why? Females who drink heavily for long periods of time may experience a reduction in their corpus callosum, the band of nerves deep within the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain to communicate and coordinate activities. It doesn’t affect males quite the same way.

Even as females age, differences remain. Women struggle more to break down fatty acids in the body; thus, they’re more likely to develop liver diseases after shorter periods of heavy drinking than men. Young women who chronically abuse alcohol are at increased risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal problems.

Underage drinking is damaging and dangerous. Regardless of the physical issues discussed in this writing, think back to the girl who was raped because she was intoxicated and her attackers were also intoxicated. Parents are urged to talk early to their youth about the dangers of underage drinking. Let’s arm our youth with the knowledge to make good decisions; let’s let them know they don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Know!, from which this information was taken, is a program of Drug Free Action Alliance.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. It now has a website, www.mhrsbssw.org, and a link to our Facebook page. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at (419) 448-0640 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., weekdays. The board’s funded hotline is available 24/7 at (800) 826-1306.

Nancy Cochran,

executive director