During spring break in Panama City this year, four teenagers fell off hotel balconies after they had been drinking alcohol.

Two of those teenagers lost their life; one of whom lived in Winder.

One won a scholarship to play college football that he will now never get to use. Another had written on his Facebook page that day of how much he was loving his life; now the fullness of that life will never be realized.

While alcohol-related tragedies like this are by no means limited to the young, during this month of alcohol awareness, it would benefit everyone to increase his or her knowledge with the hope of preventing future tragedies.

The segment of the brain that has to do with judgment continues to develop until age 25.

That means younger people are more likely to engage in impulsive, high risk and potentially dangerous behavior when drinking.

It also means they are more susceptible to the brain re-wiring that is addiction and may never develop to their full emotional and intellectual potential.

The average age when children try alcohol is 11 for boys and 13 for girls.

Exposure to alcohol at an early age is a major risk factor in the development of adult alcohol problems.

In fact, adolescents who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem than those who begin drinking at 21.

Research shows that a person's risk for developing alcohol dependence decreases by 14 percent for each year that drinking is delayed.

Eighty percent of adult respondents in an alcohol treatment program indicated that they had gotten drunk for the first time before the age of 18.

There is a growing problem of girls who are "binge drinking" (drinking four or more drinks at one sitting) and developing alcohol dependence.

It is important to know that alcohol affects boys and girls differently. Girls (and women) have less water in their bodies so they can become intoxicated faster after consuming less alcohol.

Girls also have fewer enzymes to break down and metabolize alcohol. Girls are also often smaller and weigh less than boys, so girls may stay drunk longer; consequently they are also at higher risk for alcohol poisoning.

For more information, call the Community Wellness Center at 464-2436.

Page last updated Mon April 26th, 2010 at 14:56