April is Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The month may be winding down, but awareness is always a good thing throughout the year. One of the assumptions many people have is that boys drink more than girls. Know!, a news resource of Drug Free Action Alliance, refers to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Results of this study of youth ages 12-17 indicate that 13.2 percent of girls and 12.6 percent of boys report using alcohol.

Alcohol affects girls differently than boys for biological reasons. Girls have less water in their bodies to dilute alcohol in the bloodstream. Girls absorb alcohol more slowly than boys and produce less of the gastric enzyme that breaks down ethanol in the stomach.

Because of these biological factors, if girls match guys drink for drink they become intoxicated more quickly and are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning affects basic life-support functions like breathing, heart rate and temperature control. Excessive drinking depresses nerves that control involuntary actions like breathing and the gag reflex that prevents choking. Alcohol irritates the stomach so it’s common for someone who has had too much to vomit. The BAC (blood alcohol concentration) can rise while the drinker is passed out. Even when drinking has stopped the alcohol continues to enter the blood stream. Letting them “sleep it off” may not be a good idea. Cold showers, hot black coffee and walking it off also are not recommended.

Critical signs of alcohol poisoning are: mental confusion, unable to wake the drinker up, vomiting, seizures, fewer than eight breaths per minute, 10 seconds or more between breaths; paleness, bluish color, according to collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

The human brain still develops to the mid-20s and whether male or female, alcohol abuse can cause brain damage. However, it is surprising to read that “Research has found that females who drink heavily for long periods of time may experience a reduction in a band of nerves deep within the brain that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain to communicate and coordinate one’s activities, whereas males do not.”

Women develop liver diseases after shorter heavier periods of drinking than men. Women in their teens and 20s who chronically abuse alcohol are at increased risk for ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems, Know! advises.

Women who are pregnant or become pregnant should not drink alcohol which has been documented as causing FAS (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), a preventable form of mental retardation that affects a child-and caregivers-for the rest of the child’s life.

Moderate drinking is defined as one drink per day for women, two for men, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“Overdoses can range in severity from problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death.”

Underage drinkers (under age 20) drink five drinks at a time. The body becomes impaired, unable to break down and clear the alcohol from the bloodstream. The BAC increases and the brain becomes impaired. Binge drinking is having four drinks in two hours for women and five or more in two hours for men.

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical help immediately.

Drinking too often and too much raises the risk for alcohol use disorders.

For more information about this topic contact Family Recovery Center at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues and is funded in part by Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS).