Facts for Teens

Q: Why is it important to wait until the age of 21 to drink?

A: Besides it being against the law, starting to drink at a young age is putting youth at risk in two ways. First, the brain is not fully developed in adolescence. Starting to drink alcohol at a young age can hinder the development of the brain’s structure and functioning. Second, we also know from extensive research that teens who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop problems with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency than those who start drinking at age 21.

Q: Why do some people act differently when drinking different types of alcohol?

A: Many people believe that different kinds of alcohol evoke certain responses. For example, drinking tequila makes you crazy while drinking beer makes you more relaxed. This belief is false; there is nothing in tequila that makes someone more daring and nothing in beer that makes a person more relaxed. The only differences are alcohol content and a person’s expectancy of how they should act when drinking. Liquor’s alcohol content ranges from 40-50 percent alcohol while most beers are 4-5 percent alcohol. This elevated alcohol content means that less liquor is required than beer to be considered a standard drink: 1.5 ounces of liquor has the same amount of alcohol as 12 ounces of beer

Q: Why is drinking so dangerous if it is legal?

A: Drinking two drinks can put you over the legal limit for driving, which is dangerous but isn’t considered binge drinking. Irresponsible drinking is binge drinking, which is considered to be five or more drinks for an adult male and four or more drinks for an adult female within the time span of about two hours. Binge drinking has become fairly common in the United States.

Q: Why do some people become addicted to alcohol?

A: No one decides to become addicted to alcohol or drugs. There are many aspects to how someone might develop alcoholism, which can include biological, psychological and social components. To put it simply, repetitive and irresponsible use of alcohol can change the chemical composition of the brain. This misuse can begin psychologically as a way of trying to cope with tough situations or it could be introduced as part of a lifestyle or social change like going away to college. Once the brain chemistry is changed, however, the use of alcohol becomes a biological need.

Q: How common is underage drinking?

A: In the United States, 34.9 percent of teens report they are currently drinking alcohol. In Palm Beach County, only 25 percent of teens report that they are drinking.

Q: Doesn’t drinking coffee sober you up more quickly?

A: Drinking coffee does not make you sober or lessen the time it will take for you to become sober. The only way to become sober is time. It takes time for the body — specifically the liver — to metabolize the alcohol it has taken in. On average, it takes the liver about one hour to metabolize one standard drink.

Q: What is a standard drink?

A: These amounts vary because all three types of drinks differ in alcohol content:

Beer 12 ounces
Wine 5 ounces
Liquor 1.5 ounces

Q: Why do they say it is healthy to drink red wine every day?

A: This concept has become fairly popular in the past ten years, but there is no solid evidence-based conclusion. Red wine has a high concentration of antioxidants, which are known to protect the body’s cells and tissues from damage. Because of these antioxidants, some studies have theorized that adults who drink red wine regularly are less likely to develop heart disease and some cancers. Others have shown that a routine consumption of red wine can lead to the development of certain cancers and alcoholism. Both sides point to the fact that moderation is key.

Q: How does drinking affect your health?

A: Alcohol is a drug that affects many of the organs and functioning systems in our bodies. The organ alcohol causes the most impact on is the liver, and since the liver is responsible for metabolizing alcohol, it suffers the most. The misuse of alcohol also creates a variety of problems for the brain, heart, pancreas, and immune system and it can put a person at a higher risk for developing certain cancers.

Q: Why do some people get drunk so quickly when drinking certain types of alcohol?

A: All alcohol is not created equal. Often people don’t understand this and consume too much, which results in the feeling of being drunk. When mixing a drink for example, most people will pour some liquor into one-third to one-half of the bottom of the glass then top it with water or a mixer. Regardless of the amount of non-alcoholic mixing components that are added, always keep in mind the vast differences in the percentages of alcohol in beer, wine and liquor as noted in this chart:

Beer 4-6 percent alcohol
Wine 9-12 percent alcohol
Liquor 40-50 percent alcohol



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Hanley Foundation, Inc.

900 54th Street
West Palm Beach, Florida 33407