TO­TAL TRAIN WRECK

We get se­ri­ous about un­der­age drink­ing.

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“IT’S IM­POR­TANT TO DE­LAY AND DEFER THE TAKE- UP OF AL­CO­HOL UN­TIL YOU ARE OVER 18.” DID YOU KNOW… IT CAN TAKE MORE THAN 18 HOURS FOR YOUR BLOOD AL­CO­HOL LEVEL TO RE­TURN TO ZERO?*

You wake up in your bed with­out any rec­ol­lec­tion of how you got there. Your head aches with an ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain you’ve never felt in your life. The dress you’d bought with your birth­day money is in a heap on the floor with a foul-look­ing stain on it. Your blood runs cold when you think about your par­ents. Did they see you when you were drunk? How did you even get home? You pick up your phone to text your bestie and find old mes­sages from friends ask­ing where you are. Then your stom­ach turns as you re­mem­ber… Snapchat! You tap your way through a bunch of sto­ries and see the em­barro things that you did last night… with ev­ery­one watch­ing. And the worst part? You’ve got to face ev­ery­one at school on Mon­day gos­sip­ing about how drunk you were. Does this sound like your worst night­mare? Well, for­get the mas­sive wave of hu­mil­i­a­tion – there are some scary facts about al­co­hol that will make you think twice be­fore pick­ing up a drink again.

PARTY POISON

Like acne, pe­riod pain and boy band ob­ses­sions, go­ing to par­ties is a teenage rite of pas­sage. When the week­end rolls around and you hit up a house party with your squad, you prob­a­bly find half the crowd has a red cup of al­co­hol in hand. You may be tempted to join in and think, Ev­ery­one else is drink­ing, it’s no big­gie. But ac­tu­ally, the de­ci­sion to get amongst could have mas­sive reper­cus­sions. While you may think you know your lim­its with al­co­hol; do you know the long-term dam­ag­ing ef­fects that it has on your body? “We have to be aware of the dan­gers,” warns Julie Rae from the Aus­tralian Drug Foun­da­tion (ADF). “The brain is still de­vel­op­ing un­til you are 20, and we know from the ev­i­dence that the younger you start drink­ing, the higher the chances of habits or ad­dic­tion oc­cur­ring.” Ac­cord­ing to the Smart Gen­er­a­tion project, a Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil­funded ini­tia­tive aim­ing to pre­vent ado­les­cent harm from al­co­hol, drink­ing in your teen years can cause long-term brain dam­age. It af­fects the side of the brain that con­trols de­ci­sion mak­ing and prob­lem-solv­ing, so al­co­hol con­sump­tion can be linked to poor school re­sults. Equally wor­ry­ing, al­co­hol use is also linked to risky sex­ual be­hav­iours. “Al­co­hol is a poison,” Julie points out. “It’s im­por­tant to de­lay and defer the take-up of al­co­hol un­til you are over 18.”

WHEN SMART GIRLS DO STUPID THINGS

The scari­est part about al­co­hol is the way it makes peo­ple take crazy risks. Holly**, 17, saw this first­hand when her best friend al­most ended not only their friend­ship but their lives, while un­der the dan­ger­ous in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. “I had a friend who was stressed at school and wanted to drink to get out of the world she was in,” Holly re­calls. “We were at a party and she got so drunk she climbed up to the roof of a five-storey build­ing and I fol­lowed her. She started cry­ing and I knew that if I didn’t do some­thing, she would slip be­cause she was half a me­tre from the edge and she was su­per drunk. “I had to pull her off, and we nearly slipped off the roof. That was prob­a­bly one of the scari­est things I’ve ever done! I didn’t talk to her for about a month and a half af­ter that. She was stupid as hell that night.” While Holly’s story ended safely, not all teens have been as lucky. “Most deaths in young peo­ple are from se­ri­ous in­juries re­lated to be­ing drunk,” says Julie. “So it’s re­ally im­por­tant that you take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity and sup­port your friend. Don’t just as­sume they are sleep­ing [if they pass out], make sure you ring an am­bu­lance if you are con­cerned about any­thing.”

THE RE­AL­ITY OF DRINK SPIKING

You may have read this ar­ti­cle up un­til now and thought, Well, this doesn’t af­fect me. I don’t plan on drink­ing. But un­for­tu­nately, there are in­stances of al­co­hol be­ing slipped into peo­ple’s drinks with­out them know­ing. “It usu­ally hap­pens with a friend who thinks it’s a fun thing to spike your drink with al­co­hol with­out you know­ing,” Julie in­forms us. “In fact, it is il­le­gal and they can be charged.” It can put you in huge dan­ger – ac­cord­ing to the ADF, sex­ual as­sault is com­monly linked with drink spiking. PRO­TECT YOUR­SELF FROM DRINK SPIKING 1. Don’t ac­cept drinks from peo­ple who you do not trust. 2. Keep an eye on your drink at all times. 3. Buy bot­tled drinks so you know they have not been spiked. 4. Do not taste another per­son’s drink. 5. If your drink tastes funny, throw it out. If you want to talk to some­one about al­co­hol, call Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or visit kid­shelpline.com.au. D

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