Impacts of Underaged Drinking

boy drinking and vomiting

Binge Drinking / Alcohol Poisoning

This happens when large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a very short period of time. Consuming too much alcohol too quickly causes a breakdown of the body’s systems, which can lead to death. Although teens may feel invincible while drinking, their body systems may react strongly, particularly if they are not regular drinkers. When a person’s body absorbs too much alcohol, it can have a direct impact on the central nervous system, breathing, heart rate, and gag reflex. This can lead to choking, coma, and even death. One reason this can happen is because the medulla, which controls heartbeats, breathing, and other functions, can be affected by heavy drinking and cause these functions to stop working, endangering your life. Another reason this can happen is because the reticular activating system, which controls sleeping and waking, can be depressed, causing unconsciouness.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as the amount of alcohol leading to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%, which, for most adults, would be reached by consuming five drinks for men or four for women over a two-hour period. Young teens and college students are most likely to binge drink. Frequent binge drinkers (nearly one million high-school students nationwide) are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, having sex with multiple partners, and getting bad grades. Binge drinking can result in alcohol poisoning, a breaking down of the body's systems that can and does lead to death. People who are at risk for alcohol poisoning can lose the ability to swallow because their gag reflex, a motor response from the body that prevents choking, is impaired.

Some people who have passed out can choke on vomit, accidentally inhaling it into their lungs. This can lead to asphyxiation, or the inability to breathe that leads to sudden death. As a result, people who survive alcohol poisoning may have irreversible brain damage. Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion and stupor
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature
  • Unconsciousness

Next: Drunk Driving