Abuse Prevention


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Know! Alcohol's Female Effect

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. In this Know! Parent Tip we focus on alcohol’s effects specific to young females.

Many adults assume that underage drinking mostly involves boys. That assumption however, is false. In fact, girls have not only caught up to boys when it comes to drinking, but in many cases have surpassed them. According to results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among youth aged 12 to 17, the percentage of females who were current drinkers (13.2 percent) was higher than their male counterparts (12.6 percent).

Research also shows that while alcohol use among boys and girls is just about equal, alcohol’s impact on their bodies and brains are not.

Females are more vulnerable to alcohol’s effects than males, and here’s why:

Females have less water in their bodies to help dilute the alcohol in the bloodstream;
Females absorb alcohol at a slower rate;
Females naturally produce less alcohol dehydrogenase (a gastric enzyme that breaks down ethanol in the stomach – that otherwise is toxic).

What this means is that a female and male of the same size and weight can drink the same amount of alcohol and yet the female will have a higher concentration of alcohol in her blood. It also means that females who go “drink-for-drink” with males are likely to become intoxicated more quickly and are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol can be damaging to the developing adolescent brain, regardless of gender. However, females are more sensitive to alcohol-induced brain damage than males. Research has found that females who drink heavily for long periods of time may experience a reduction in their corpus callosum (a band of nerves deep within the brain that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain to communicate and coordinate one’s activities), whereas males do not.

As females age, the differences remain. As adults, women struggle more than men to break down fatty acids in the body, therefore resulting in a higher number of women who develop liver diseases after comparatively shorter periods of heavy drinking than men. But even younger women in their late teens and early 20s who chronically abuse alcohol are at increased risk for ulcers and other gastrointestinal problems.

Underage drinking is damaging and dangerous. Parents are encouraged to talk early and often, sharing clear anti-use messages with daughters and sons alike. It is important to include in your talks, especially with our daughters, the fact that that drinking impacts females more intensely, so that she is better armed to make informed, healthy decisions surrounding alcohol, as a teen and into her adult years.

Sources: 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Girls, Women and Alcohol: Making Informed Choices resource from Healthy Child Manitoba. NYU Langone Medical Center – The Child Study Center: Girls and Alcohol.


Talking regularly with youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
reduces their risk of using
in the first place.

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 Know! is a program of:

Drug Free Action Alliance
6155 Huntley Road, Suite H
Columbus, Ohio 43229
 Lifetime Prevention
Lifetime Wellness




Teens will be teens. They sleep late, fail a test here and there or get uncharacteristically moody. But what if these behaviors are happening more often than usual, or all at the same time? You know your teen better than anyone, but it is important to know what to look for if you suspect he or she may be abusing medicine.
  1. Health concerns. Keep an eye out for changes in your teen’s physical health, like constricted pupils, nausea or vomiting, flushed skin or dizziness. Look further into anything that seems strange.
  2. Changes in behavior. The signs of medicine abuse aren’t always physical. Look for changes in behavior – like sudden changes in relationships with their family or friends, anxiety, erratic mood swings or decreased motivation. It’s no secret that teens can be moody, but be on the lookout for drastic differences in the way your child behaves.
  3.  Home-related signs. If you’ve noticed belongings  disappearing around the house, or found some unusual objects appearing – like straws, burnt spoons, aluminum foil or medicine bottles – this could be a sign of medicine abuse. Count – and lock up – the medicine you have in your home and safely dispose of any expired medicine. 
  4. Trouble in school. Take note of how your teen is doing in school, including any change in homework habits and grades. A rapid drop in grades, loss of interest in schoolwork and complaints from teachers could be indicators that there’s a problem. 
  5. Things just seem off. You know your child better than anyone and you know when something’s not right. Trust your gut, and talk to your teen about your concerns. 
With one in four kids reporting abuse of prescription drugs in their lifetime, it’s important to take action right away if you do suspect medicine abuse. Don’t be afraid to talk – and listen – to your teen, work through things together and get help if necessary.