Teenage Drinking is dangerous. And it's bad for your health too!

At any high school party, there most likely will be alcohol. Of course, the legal drinking age is 21, but according to the U.S. Department of Health, in 2002 and 2003, “there were approximately 7.2 million persons under the legal drinking age” who drank alcohol. What is it about drinking alcohol that causes so many underage Americans to break the law? Reasons may vary , but most teens drink because of peer pressure and the desire to fit in.

Health risks

There are obviously many risks that one takes when one drinks, underage or not. For example, alcohol is a considered a depressant because it slows the functions of the central nervous system. It is still not known how alcohol affects memory and learning skills of those who drink heavily as a teens, but excessive alcohol use may make school performance worse. Teenagers who drink heavily may also be at higher risk for alcohol abuse as adults.

Being underage is reason enough not to drink, and underage drinking is illegal. Also, alcohol is a highly addictive substance, and over-consumption can happy quickly. Most teens have not learned their limits yet, and drink more than their bodies can handle. This can cause alcohol poisoning, which causes vomiting, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures and possibly death. In addition, alcohol can lead to fatal car accidents, which puts the teen at risk as well as those unknowing drivers around him or her. It does not take much alcohol to impair driving ability. In addition, teens who drink can die from homicide, suicide and other accidents.

Aside from getting sick and breaking the law, another fact about drinking is that all alcoholic beverages (even the “light” kinds) contain many calories and carbohydrates. Let’s look at the calories and carbohydrates in beer:

  • Budweiser
    • Calories:145
    • Carbohydrates (g):10.6
  • Coors Light
    • Calories: 102
    • Carbohydrates (g): 5
  • Miller
    • Calories:143
    • Carbohydrates (g):13.1
  • Michelob
    • Calories:155
    • Carbohydrates (g):13.3
  • Heineken
    • Calories:150
    • Carbohydrates (g):11.5
  • Corona
    • Calories:148
    • Carbohydrates (g):14

And here’s just a look at a few cocktails:

  • Gin and Tonic
    • Calories: 200
    • Carbohydrates (g): 4
  • Bloody Mary
    • Calories: 180
    • Carbohydrates (g): 4
  • Margarita
    • Calories: up to 500
    • Carbohydrates (g): up to 10
  • Long Island Iced Tea
    • Calories: up to 550
    • Carbohydrates (g): up to 11

Melissa Ohlson, MS, RD, Nutrition Program Coordinator of Preventive Cardiology says that “in addition to the health risks, drinking alcohol tacks on a lot of extra calories.” It takes a lot of exercise to work off all of the calories. 

So, why drink alcoholic beverages and intake all of these calories when for the same amount of calories you could treat yourself to chocolate or ice cream?

Drinking can potentially cause many long-term health problems that may not show up until adulthood. More than 2 million Americans have been diagnosed with alcohol-related liver disease. You could get alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), alcoholic cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), or liver cancer. Drinking can also cause heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and different types of cancer (esophagus, mouth, throat and larynx (voice box). Lastly, drinking can potentially cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

So, before you drink - take this message to heart - and to your health!

To see statistics, and learn more about drinking please visit:

When to Call

If you are concerned about how your alcohol use is affecting your health and your relationships with others, learn more about the Cleveland Clinic Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center's (ADRC) Adolescent Treatment Program

Reviewed: 12/13

Smoking is bad for your health!

Smoking cigarettes “has been identified as the most important source of preventable morbidity and premature mortality worldwide” (Smoking 101 Fact Sheet). Smoking is probably worse for you than you think. For example, 438,000 Americans die from smoking-related diseases annually.

Here are some facts about smoking from the American Lung Association:

  • Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
  • Males tend to have significantly higher rates of smoking prevalence than females. In 2005, 23.9 percent of males currently smoked compared to 18.1 percent of females
  • Each day, nearly 6,000 children under 18 years of age start smoking; of these, nearly 2,000 will become regular smokers. That is almost 800,000 annually
  • Approximately 90 percent of smokers begin smoking before the age of 21
  • If current tobacco use patterns persist, an estimated 6.4 million children will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease
  • Tobacco use in adolescence is associated with a range of heath-compromising behaviors, including being involved in fights, carrying weapons, engaging in high-risk sexual behavior and using alcohol and other drugs

In addition, secondhand smoke is very bad for you. Second hand smoke “is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers” (Secondhand Smoke Fact Sheet).

Here are some facts about second-hand smoke from the American Lung Association (to shock those who do not believe that their smoking does not affect others):

  • Secondhand smoke has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known cause of cancer in humans (Group A carcinogen)
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes disease and premature death in children and adults who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals known to be toxic or carcinogenic, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide
    • Formaldehyde: irritating gas usually in liquid form used as a disinfectant and preservative
    • Benzene – flammable, toxic liquid, used for motor fuel
    • Vinyl chloride – flammable carcinogen, used to make vinyl resins
    • Hydrogen cyanide – poisonous (usually gaseous) compound that smells like bitter almonds
  • Secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers in the United States each year
  • The current Surgeon General’s Report concluded that scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Short exposures to second hand smoke can cause blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability, potential increasing the risk of heart attack

These facts are indisputable, and because of this, many cities around the United States have banned smoking in public places. Many college campuses have also banned smoking including Miami University of Ohio. President Hodge passed a smoking ban in 2008.


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Reviewed: 12/13

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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