Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to find out more about underage drinking.

  • Can drinking alcohol make you gain weight?
  • Can drinking alcohol hurt sports performance?
  • Is it possible to sober up by drinking coffee or cola and drive someone home safely?
  • Can drinking alcohol affect memory or learning?
  • Can drinking alcohol cause problems with medications?
  • How many kids my age are drinking alcohol?
feet on scale

The Internet is filled with misinformation about alcohol. Some websites claim it is a weight-loss tool, because drinking heavily makes you eat less. But alcohol is filled with empty calories, so it can’t substitute for food and keep you healthy. Other sites claim that alcohol is an energizer that can help burn calories. But it’s actually a central nervous system depressant and that burst of energy is followed by a body slowdown. Alcohol lowers blood sugar levels by preventing the breakdown of sugar in the liver, which sends hunger signals to the brain. Willpower can go out the window when the snack attacks kick in. One 12-ounce can of beer ranges from 140 to 200 calories, while a shot of liquor can be up to 200. Mixed drinks can range from 280 calories for a gin and tonic to 800 calories for some creamy frozen drinks.

person snowboarding

Absolutely. Studies show that drinking alcohol can impair an adolescent’s sports performance for up to 72 hours. Alcohol can cause:

  • Muscle cramps — During heavy exercise, burning sugar can produce lactic acid as a by-product. Too much lactic acid leads to muscle fatigue and cramps. Drinking can lead to a bigger build up of lactic acid and increase the risk of cramping.
  • Decreased endurance level — The blood sugar a body needs for energy is produced by the liver releasing glucose into the bloodstream. Alcohol reduces your ability to produce this sugar, so you have less energy and endurance.
  • Slowed reaction time — Alcohol slows down the central nervous system and the brain’s ability to process information. As long as alcohol remains in the body, it can affect reaction time, coordination, accuracy, and balance—all of which are important to optimal performance in sports.
girl with coffee

No. Coffee or cola may wake you up, but they cannot change the effects of alcohol. Standard drinks of beer, dinner wine, and distilled spirits (liquor) contain an equivalent amount of alcohol (6/10 of one ounce). Standard drinks are a 12-ounce can or bottle of beer, a five-ounce glass of dinner wine, and a shot (1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, either straight or in a mixed drink). It takes over an hour for the alcohol in a standard drink to work its way out of the body. Drinking coffee, taking cold showers, or exercising does not speed up this process.

students in science lab class

The hippocampus, or the area in the brain that stores memory, is still maturing during adolescence. Research shows that ingesting even small amounts of alcohol can make teens less likely to recall something they learned earlier or remember what they did while drinking.

prescription medication pills spilling out of vial

Medication for attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, or other conditions of the brain may react badly with alcohol. For instance, if a teen takes Ritalin and drinks alcohol, it may increase the effects of Ritalin, affecting the ability to perform tasks that require complete concentration. For those taking lithium for bipolar disorder, drinking alcohol, particularly in large quantities, can impair judgment, thinking, and motor skills.

teen boys and girls hanging out

Not as many as you might think. In a 2007 survey of students, only 16% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 reported having used alcohol in the previous month. That means that about 84%, or more than four out of five, of the students surveyed did not use alcohol during that period. It's important to remember that most tweens and teens are not drinking. Don't be taken in by myths, rumors, and opinions. Get the facts from sources you can trust.

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