Know the facts about....

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a distilled liquid from fermented fruits, grains and vegetables. It is also used as a solvent, antiseptic, and as a sedative.

How does alcohol work in the body?
Many people drink alcohol to “relax,” to be sociable at a party or other gathering, or for a cheap “high.” Alcohol works in the body as a depressant, slowing the brain’s functions. The more someone drinks, the more the central nervous system slows down, sometimes to a dangerous point. As little as two beers or drinks can impair coordination and thinking. With prolonged drinking of alcohol, the brain and other bodily organs are permanently damaged.

What are the short-term effects?
The relaxed feeling of alcohol use makes people more likely to do dangerous things—things like driving while impaired or even trying other drugs that they would normally avoid.
  • Impaired coordination and thinking
  • Blurry vision
  • Anxiety, restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Slower heart rate and breathing rate
  • Confusion
  • Death from alcohol induced coma
  • Slurred speech, dilated pupils

What are the long-term effects?
  • Nerve damage
  • Liver damage, called alcoholic hepatitis or inflammation of the liver
  • Jaundice
  • Alcoholism, or dependence on alcohol
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • Cancer, especially of the esophagus, mouth, throat, and voice box
  • Inflamed pancreas, which can cause severe abdominal pain and weight loss
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

Why is it dangerous to drive under the influence of alcohol?
Alcohol impairs your judgement. Because alcohol is a sedative, it slows you down, reducing the time it takes your to process information and react to situations. Alcohol reduces your ability to see distant objects and night vision can be reduced by 25 percent. Blurred and double vision can also occur. Ability to perceive what is happening at the roadside is weakened. Loss of peripheral vision could be crucial. Alcohol may also create a sense of overconfidence, with the result that people are willing to take greater risks.

How can you tell if someone is drunk?

Alcohol works in the body as a depressant, slowing the brain’s function. The more someone drinks, the more the central nervous system slows down, sometimes to a dangerous point. As little as two beers or drinks can impair coordination and thinking.

Signs of drunkenness include:
  • Confusion
  • Abnormal speech, either too loud or too fast
  • Loss of coordination, which often shows up as staggering
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dilated pupils

How much is a “drink?”

A standard drink of alcohol is equal to:
  • One 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler.
    Different beers may have different ranges of alcohol content. For instance, malt liquor has more alcohol content than most other brewed beverages.
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine.
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, like vodka or whiskey.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism can happen at any age. It is generally defined by these symptoms:
  • Craving for a drink and a need for more drinks to get the same “high”
  • Not being able to stop drinking once drink has begun
  • Feeling withdrawl symptoms like nausea, tremors, sweatiness, and anxiety afetr stopping drinking

If you think you or someone you know has a drinking problem, contact a responsible adult or mental health professional for help. It could save a life.

How common is alcohol abuse?

  • Alcohol continues to be the most frequently abused substance among young adults.
  • Almost half of Americans aged 12 and older reported being current drinkers of alcohol in 2000.
  • About 9.7 million people aged 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the month prior to a 2000 survey.
  • Full-time college students were more likely to report using alcohol than similarly aged non-students.
  • One in 10 Americans aged 12 and older in 2000 had driven under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year.
  • Thirty-nine percent of fatal traffice accidents in 1997 were alcohol-related.
  • More than 70 percent of drivers convicted of driving while impaired are either heavy frequent drinkers (alcohol abuse) or alcoholics (alcohol dependent).

Warning Signs of Problem Drinking

  1. Won’t admit or doesn’t believe he or she has a problem.
  2. Once started, can’t limit drinking
  3. Lies about when and how often he or she drinks.
  4. Becomes angry when questioned about drinking.
  5. Drinks to escape problems or depression.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking means drinking five or more alcoholic beverages on the same occasion on at least one day in the past month. Some experts say the standard is five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women.

How dangerous is binge drinking?

Binge drinking dangerously raises the level of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. That quantity is measured by blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. For instance, having a BAC of 0.10 percent means that a person has 1 part alcohol per 1,000 parts in the body. Currently, it is illegal in Michigan to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. It’s important to note that alcohol can affect your driving skills at even lower BAC rates. For people under 21, drinking any alcohol is against the law.

How much is too much? If a 160-pound person has three drinks in an hour, he or she can flunk the BAC test. For women, it’s often less than that. So the more a person drinks, the more dangerous the individual is, especially on the road.

People can also die from alcohol poisoning if they binge drink. So much alcohol floods a person’s system that they can go into a coma, and their heart stops beating. Remember that the next time someone wants you to participate in a drinking contest or hands you a large glass of beer.

What’s the difference between binge drinkers and alcoholics?

Binge drinking is not alcoholism, but drinking so much can put a person at higher risk of alcohol addiction. Alcoholism can happen at any age. 

How common is binge drinking?
  • About one in five people under the age of 21 could be called a binge drinker in 2000
  • Underage persons who reported binge drinking were seven times more likely to report illicit drug use during the past month than underage persons who did not binge drink.
  • Males aged 12 to 20 were more likely than their female peers to report binge drinking in 2000.
  • College students who binge drink are significantly more likely to use marijuana and cocain and smoke cigarettes.
  • Full-time college students were more likely to report alcohol use and binge-drinking than their peers who weren’t attending college.
  • In schools with high binge drinking rates,
    • 34 percent of non-binge drinkers reported being insulted or humiliated by binge drinkers.
    • 13 percent reported being pushed, hit or assaulted
    • 54 percent reported having to take care of a drunken student
    • 68 percent were interrupted while studying
    • 26 percent of women experienced an unwanted sexual advance
  • Frequent binge drinkers were eight times more likely than non-binge drinkers to miss a class, fall behind in schoolwork, get hurt or injured, and damagev property
  • Nearly one out of every five teenagers (16 percent) has experienced “blackout” spells where they could not remember what happened the previous evening because of heavy binge drinking
  • More than 60 percent of college men and almost 50 percent of college women who are frequent binge drinkers report that they drink and drive
  • Binge drinking, often beginning around age 13, tends to increase during adolescence, peak in young adulthood (age 18 to 22), then gradually decrease
  • Students who live in a fraternity or sorority house are the heaviest drinkers — 86 percent of fraternity residents and 80 percent of sorority residents report binge drinking

What are some of the effects of binge drinking and alcohol abuse?

Alcohol poisoning is the most serious result from binge drinking. Alcohol poisoning happens when too much alcohol is consumed, and the brain is deprived of oxygen. Breathing and heart rate may slow, then stop completely, and the person dies. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical attention immediately!

How do I counter the pressure to drink alcohol?

If you believe everything you see and hear, you might think that drinking alcohol makes you sexy and successful. They reality is a much different picture. Drinking too much can make you vomit — that’s not a sext picture. All the “good” feelings of drinking are countered by equally bad results: hangovers, sickness, and sometimes a lapse of memory where you’re not certain where you’ve been what you did or what happened to you.

If your fiends try to pressure you to drink, think about whether real friends would want you to do something you’re not comfortable with — especially if you’re underaged. Is impressing your friends worth making a fool of yourself by getting ill, or even worse — killing someone while you’re driving drunk?

Alcohol is a socially acceptable drug, one whose addictive qualities are often glossed over. Hangovers are often made fun of in the movies or on TV, but the reality of alcohol addiction isn’t very comical. People lose their jobs, get into fatal car accidents, and have serious health problems from drinking too much. Memory loss—commonly called “blackouts”—is common among heavy alcohol users.

It’s the Law!
Laws forbidding underaged drinking are in place for a reason: to protect young people and those they may injure. Driving under the influence of alcohol carries heavy penalties including probation, loss of license, and for repeat offenders—jail time. But no punishment could be worse than carrying the burden of knowing that you killed someone because you drank and got behind the wheel of a car. Remember that when someone says, “Just one won’t hurt you.” One drink can hurt you—and you’re better off without it!

.08 Lower Limit, Tougher Law.

On September 30, 2003, Michigan became the 44th state in America to lower its drunk driving standard to .08 blood alcohol content (BAC). Previously, Michigan had a two-tiered standard which treated .10 as “drunk driving” and .08-.09 as “driving impaired.”

Why has Michigan Lowered the Drunk Driving Standard?

  1. A person’s driving skills are seriously compromised at .08 BAC. Recent research shows that the vast majority of drivers are significantly impaired at .08 blood alcohol content.
  2. .08 reduces traffic fatalities. Studies have analyzed the effects of lowering BAC to .08 in other states. The lower standard generally means reductions in alcohol-related fatal crashes when combined with publicity and strong enforcement. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  3. A.08 BAC law serves as an additional deterrent to driving drunk. It sends the message that Michigan is getting tougher on intoxicated driving.

Fines & Fees (for a first offense)

  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to a $500 fine
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to 6 points on a driver’s license
  • Up to 180 days’ license suspension

Other Consequences

  • Convicted drunk drivers will also be subject to a new $1,000 penalty for two consecutive years, for a total of $2,000 in additional fines
  • Anyone who refuses a breath test the first time is given an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension, rather than the previous six-month suspension. For a second refusal in seven years, the suspension is two years.

Don’t Drive Drunk!

Although you may feel capable of driving at .08, you run serious risks to yourself and others. Please, play it safe.

It’s Not Just About Alcohol

Drivers with any trace of non-medical drugs in their systems are subject to the same fines and penalties as drunk drivers, even if they show no signs of impairment. Among the prosecutable substances:
  • Marijuana
  • GHB
  • Cocaine and cocaine derivatives

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