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Chapter 6. Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on the Driver: Part 4

Florida Drug and Alcohol Test (TLSAE) Course: Chapter 6. Effects of Alcohol and Drugs on the Driver

Ways to Avoid Driving Impaired


Section 6.4. Ways to Avoid Driving Impaired

Avoidance Measures

Many people think that they have to drink or take drugs to have fun. Most people who take this course are not of legal drinking age, but it is important to have a positive persuasive method to prevent drinking and driving.

Not drinking alcohol is one way to avoid a problem behind the wheel; if the person makes a poor decision and drinks, a designated driver would be a good choice - this must be a person who has had nothing at all to drink.

One call-a-cab campaign to prevent impaired driving had billboards that said, "$10.00 for a cab, or $10,000.00 for a DUI - you decide!" While a person is thinking clearly, the decision might be easy, but to an impaired person, it might not be, due to diminished thought processes.

DO NOT GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF ANY VEHICLE WITH AN IMPAIRING SUBSTANCE IN YOUR SYSTEM

HOW DO I STOP SOMEONE FROM DRIVING IMPAIRED?
  1. Try reasoning with the person - Tell them about the consequences of driving impaired.
  2. Make other arrangements - See if a sober friend or taxi (prepaid, if possible) will take the person to their destination. If it's a friend of yours, you have the option of driving them to your home and letting them drive home the next day when the alcohol is out of their system.
  3. Stand firm - Don't let yourself be swayed by the impaired person's belief that they can drive. Don't tell yourself that letting this person drive "just this once" won't matter. Remind yourself that it only takes one time for a collision to happen.
  4. Take the keys away - If that is not possible given the circumstances, call the police. Remember, you are doing the right thing as a friend.
  5. Give yourself credit - You've handled a very uncomfortable situation, and you've kept this person and everyone in their path safe.
We have covered many topics related to alcohol and other drugs as they relate to driving and the effects on your well-being. Let's recap these topics in the form of questions and answers. The message is simple................Choose Not To Use Alcohol.

This probably sounds familiar...

  • "Drinking alcohol is what everyone does on the weekends."
  • "Someone's parents are out of town and there's a party at the house. So...I'll just have a few drinks...enough to give me the courage to talk to people. No big deal."
  • "Mom and Dad think we're going out to dinner anyway. Someone in the group is going to be the "designated driver" - she'll only have a few drinks."
  • "It's ridiculous that the law says I can't drink until I'm 21. I can go to war and vote before that, but I can't buy alcohol? Please!"
  • "Everyone drinks. Adults are naive if they think teens aren't going to at least experiment."
  • "It makes me feel good. And besides, my parents drink with their friends."

This may NOT sound familiar...

Q. What is alcohol?

Ans. Alcohol is a drug that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). It is the most abused substance by teens; however, over the past decade, past-month alcohol use among teens has decreased from 42% in 1998 to 31% in 2007 (PATS, 2008). The good news is that 69% of teens were smart enough to say no to alcohol.

(SAMHSA: http://oas.samhsa.gov/nsduh/2k8nsduh/2k8Results.cfm)



Q. What can alcohol do to my body?

Ans. Alcohol has short-term and long-term effects that can really hurt your body and your relationships with family and friends.

Even though you see beautiful people in ads drinking together, alcohol doesn't make you beautiful or guarantee you'll meet a great person. Alcohol actually has a lot of calories and doesn't offer any nutrition to your body, even if it's a fruity wine cooler. Alcohol slows down your central nervous system by blocking messages to your brain. Even in small amounts, alcohol makes responses slower. Some people become more aggressive. Also, because alcohol causes you to lose your inhibitions, you can make bad judgments like driving impaired, having unsafe sex, or trying other drugs. These bad judgments can result in motor vehicle collisions that lead to serious injury or death for yourself or others, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, rape, and deadly drug interactions.

If you drink too much, you may vomit, because alcohol is toxic and vomiting is the body's way of getting rid of an unwanted poison. If you consume large amounts of alcohol in a very short time, you can get alcohol poisoning. This is very dangerous and can even result in death.

Q. How much alcohol does it take to become impaired?

Ans. Every person is affected differently by alcohol. For example, females don't digest or metabolize alcohol as fast as males, so their bodies are more sensitive to alcohol's effect on the brain, muscles, and speech. Other factors that affect how fast a person processes alcohol include mood, body weight, and how much food is in the person's stomach. Regardless, everyone needs at least one hour to process one ounce of alcohol. One ounce of alcohol, regardless of the type of drink it is contained in, has the same power to affect the drinker. A 12-ounce can or bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor all have about the same amount of alcohol. But you can't tell how much alcohol someone has consumed by just counting their drinks, because some mixed drinks contain more than one shot of alcohol.

Remember, a person doesn't have to slur words or stumble around to be impaired. Once a person is impaired, the only thing that will sober them up is time. Coffee, cold showers, exercise, or other things you've heard about will not speed up the body's rate of eliminating alcohol from the system.

Q. What is binge drinking?



Ans. Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol very quickly for the sole purpose of getting impaired. Male binge drinkers can be defined as those who have five or more drinks in a row at least once in a two-week period. Female binge drinkers have four or more drinks at one time in this same time period. Binge drinking should concern girls, because females don't digest alcohol as quickly as males, so they are affected more easily than males. Drink for drink, girls face greater health risks from alcohol. Heavy alcohol use, like from binge drinking, can lead to alcohol poisoning, being the victim of sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, deadly drug interactions, and other injuries.

Q. What are the signs of alcohol poisoning?

Ans. Learn the following signs of alcohol poisoning so, if you are capable, you can get help, or help a friend:
  • violent vomiting
  • extreme sleepiness
  • asphyxiation
  • unconsciousness
  • difficulty breathing
Although alcohol poisoning is extreme, it does happen. In fact, it usually happens at parties during drinking games. It is a senseless waste of someone's health or life. Drinkers don't have to get alcohol poisoning to suffer from drinking too much. They can have hangovers, a feeling of being sick and sluggish, because the alcohol robs the body of fluid, causes chemical changes to occur, and depletes the body of essential vitamins. Besides harming your body after a night of partying, you could be arrested for underage drinking and possibly be fined or lose your driver's license.

Q. What are the effects of alcohol if misused over a long period of time?

Ans. Here's how alcohol can hurt your body if you misuse it for a long time. Alcohol causes:

  • vitamin deficiencies
  • stomach problems
  • major liver damage
  • kidney damage
  • heart damage
  • brain problems, like memory loss
Plus, if you drive impaired, or if you are in the car with someone who is driving impaired, you can be seriously injured or killed in a car crash. Don't forget that you also can injure and kill innocent people.

Q. What about my parents? They drink and it doesn't seem to hurt them.

Ans. First, it is legal for your parents to drink, since they are over the age of 21. Hopefully, if your parents drink alcohol, they do it responsibly and in moderation - which means they never drive after drinking and they have fewer than two drinks per day. Your parents probably are not binge drinking, and hopefully they don't drink to deal with problems. If they do, they have a problem with alcohol and they need help. The same behaviors that are signs of a problem with alcohol for teens also apply to adults. And if your parents misuse alcohol for any period of time, they will suffer the same damage to their health.

You can choose to say NO to alcohol when friends are drinking. Here are some ways:
  • Just say, "No thanks."
  • Find an excuse to leave.
  • Ask for help from other nearby friends or adults if someone is really pressuring you to drink.
  • Find a new group of friends who respect your decision not to use alcohol.
  • Only go to events that don't involve alcohol.
BE SAFE: NEVER LET FRIENDS WHO HAVE BEEN DRINKING DRIVE

Take their keys, offer to drive them home if you have a car, call a cab, or let them sleep at your house. Don't let them walk home alone either. You can avoid situations with alcohol by getting involved in organizations in your school or community that help teens plan other activities. You can have fun organizing and participating in projects that don't involve drinking! Make plans with friends that don't involve alcohol, like dinner and a movie, a sports event, playing sports, shopping, or going to a concert.

BE AWARE: WHEN ALCOHOL IS A PROBLEM

People who drink too much alcohol on a regular basis may have a disease called alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease like asthma or diabetes. Alcoholism can run in families. The good news is that it can be treated. Many teens who suffer from alcoholism get help from doctors, treatment centers, or support groups, especially Alcoholics Anonymous. You may have a problem with drinking if you show some of these signs:
  • Alcohol has become more important than your schoolwork, family activities and relationships, including friendships.
  • You use alcohol to escape from things that make you unhappy.
  • You can't control your drinking once you start. Even if you decide you'll only have a few drinks, you end up having a lot.
  • When you drink, you act like a different person than when you are sober.
  • When drinking with friends, you drink more than anyone else.
  • You have blackouts or events you don't fully remember after drinking.
Don't be afraid to talk to someone if you show these signs. People want to help you and you should not be ashamed. Try talking with your doctor or a school counselor. These people can guide you in the right direction so you can be evaluated for alcoholism and get counseling.

BE A FRIEND: HELP A FRIEND WITH A PROBLEM

If you have a friend you think has a problem with alcohol, be there for them. They may feel alone, sad, and scared. Try to set some time aside alone with them. Be a good listener. Talk with them openly about how they can feel better if they get help. Help them understand that they are not a bad person for having a problem with alcohol. Get them to speak to a trusted adult, counselor, or a doctor.
Fast Facts:

  • Female's bodies are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Their bodies react more quickly to alcohol's influence on the brain, muscles and speech.
  • Drinking gives you bad breath and can make you gain weight.
  • Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually active and have unsafe sex. Pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases from unsafe sex can change or end your life.
  • Girls who get impaired are vulnerable to assault or date rape.
  • Over 38% of all drowning deaths are alcohol-related. Drinking alcohol greatly increases the chance that teens will be in a motor vehicle crash, homicide, or suicide.
  • Drinking can really hurt your grades, which can affect the rest of your life.
  • One beer, one shot of whiskey, and one glass of wine all have the same amount of alcohol.
  • Anyone can become an alcoholic: young or old, rich or poor, married or single, employed or out of work.
  • Mixing alcohol and other drugs, even over-the-counter medicines, can make you sick or even kill you, or may cause you to hurt others.
  • Drinking coffee, taking a shower, or breathing fresh air will not sober a person up faster. The only thing that works is time.

(girlshealth.gov: http://www.girlshealth.gov/substance/alcohol/index.cfm#parents)
(CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm)




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