PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Alcohol: Your Questions

We asked IML'ers to send us your questions about alcohol. We've done our best to give you the straight answers!

Question: Why is it that we must drink only at age 21? Does our body process alcohol better at that age? (LivALittle, 12)
Answer: The government has set the drinking age at 21 for many reasons, including:

  • Adults have lived longer, and so they are supposed to be better at making decisions and judgments, like whether one has had too much to drink.

  • Adults may be better at dealing with the emotional effects of alcohol.

  • Young and growing bodies may be more affected by the long-term effects of alcohol.

  • Tweens and teens often feel they need to "escape," and so may be more likely to get addicted to alcohol.

  • The smaller your body is, the faster you get drunk and the longer it takes you to process alcohol. Adults usually have larger bodies than tweens and teens.

  • Young people may be more influenced by alcohol advertising, and might be quicker to let the media influence their decisions about drinking.

Question: When you get a little loopy because you've had too much alcohol, what causes that? Is there any way to cure it, or do you just have to wait it out? (Kiera, 9)
Answer: That "loopy" feeling is called intoxication or drunkenness, and it's caused by alcohol's effect on your nervous system and brain. The only way to get rid of it is to wait it out by letting the alcohol "oxidize" (go through your body) over time. In adults, the bloodstream can process about one drink (one beer, one glass of wine, one shot of liquor) every hour, depending on how big the person is (a smaller person will oxidize the alcohol more slowly because he or she has less blood). This means that if you've had four drinks, it will take a MINIMUM of four hours for you to be totally sober again.

Question: Does alcohol affect our heart? (Amanda, 11)
Answer: Yes. Drinking too much alcohol for a long time can damage your heart. Effects can range from shortness of breath to heart attack and death.

Question: What should you do if someone offers you alcohol? (Megan, 10)
Answer: Say, "No thanks, I don't drink." If they pressure you, get yourself safely out of that situation and if you need to, talk about it with a trusted adult.

Question: Is beer worse than wine? (Jacqueline, 11)
Answer: No, they're the same! Beer and wine may look and taste different, but they both contain alcohol, and alcohol is alcohol, no matter what drink it's in. They may contain slightly different amounts of alcohol per ounce of liquid (there's usually more alcohol in an ounce of wine than in an ounce of beer), but one regular sized beer (12 ounces) still gets you exactly as drunk as one regular sized glass of wine (5 ounces).

Question: Does alcohol make people act more hyper, or sluggish? (Anonymous)
Answer: Sluggish. At first, someone who's drinking might act hyper because alcohol seems to lower people's "inhibitions," meaning people loosen up and do and say things they might not do if they weren't drinking. This is why some people seem "wild" when they drink. But alcohol's major effect is as a "depressant," which means it makes the drinker think, move, and react slower. So the truth is, even if someone seems "pumped up" when they start drinking, alcohol will always end up making the person sluggish, slow, and clumsy. This is why you should never, ever drive when you've had a drink; your reactions will be so slow and sluggish that you could easily get into an accident.

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