In the United States, there is a large use of alcohol among adolescents and college students. This could be influenced by TV shows such as Jersey Shore or rappers such as Lil Jon and his song “Shots”. These images have been shown to adolescents and now there has been an increase in alcohol use nationwide. Along with this increased substance abuse, there is also an increased rate of alcoholism. This increased rate of alcohol use gets the chemist inside me giddy at the idea of learning exactly how alcohol acts on the body and how we can use that information to help the problem.
As it turns out, there isn’t an “easy” explanation on how alcohol works in the body. There are several receptors on which it acts in the body, the most important of these receptors being NMDA and GABA. NMDA function is inhibited and GABA function is increased both of which can be attributed to the cognitive impairment effect of alcohol. After the initial stimulation of these receptors, there is a “second wave” of signal transduction involving opioids and endocannabinoids which play a role in the development of an addiction to alcohol. These two waves are the big important ideas when it comes alcohol acting on the brain.
As far as our substance abuse problem in the United States, there needs to be a solution to it. Personally, I think that there are two main things we can change that would help the problem. The first step would be to lower the drinking age. I feel that this would help in a couple ways. First of all, I feel that this would ease people into the idea of alcohol in a safe controlled environment. Generally, the first time an individual is exposed to alcohol would be at a party either in high school or college and they wouldn’t know what to expect or when they should stop compared to if we lowered the age, they could wait until they had their first drink in a controlled environment with their parents who could help them through it. I also feel that this would eliminate some of the mystical aspect of alcohol as we wouldn’t want to go behind our parents back to see what it was like but rather just drink it in a controlled environment and be more relaxed about it. The second thing I think we could easily change is the portrayal of alcohol in mass media. Like I stated before, there is a huge “party” aspect to modern music and TV shows. I feel that if we eliminate this, adolescents would be less likely to act like their idols and not go out drinking for drinking sake. These two things, although probably wouldn’t eliminate alcoholism in the United States, would most likely help control it.