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Alcohol and decision-making

October 27, 2008 5:00 am Published by Comments Off on Alcohol and decision-making

This entry is part four in a series of five by our youth correspondent Brett Ouimette.

Alcohol greatly changes people when they are drinking and becoming drunk. Part of the problem with underage drinking is the bad things that occur during parties and drunken behavior. Motor ability becomes impaired and suddenly people seem to have no conscience telling them that what they are doing is a bad idea. Alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which controls impulse control – once someone becomes inebriated, the ability to plan, think things through, and make safe decisions can become nonexistent. Due to this side effect of alcohol, we see typical and dangerous actions, such as drunk driving and having unprotected sex. While we are drunk the ability to think about consequences is too far from our minds.

In the past, I have been at parties where people would go out for beer runs while declaring that they have “never been this drunk before” with their car keys in hand. I have watched a group of people reach into a burning fire pit attempting to get a single dropped cigarette because it was “bad luck” for the party. While intoxicated, people can just do these things without fully thinking them through. They do not realize the chance they are taking by drinking and driving. They do not understand that a single dropped cigarette is not worth getting their hands burnt. Everyone acts on impulse that often leads him or her into dangerous situations and into a lot of trouble.

Now that energy drinks containing alcohol have become popular as a way to drink a lot without passing out, young people are even more likely to do dangerous things while they are drunk. Their judgment is still impaired by the alcohol, but they are wide awake drunks with lots of energy to make bad decisions and take terrible risks.

Brett Ouimette is an 18-year-old college student originally from Simi Valley.