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Ever made a poor choice while drunk?

June 11, 2010 - Betsy Bethel

I would guess most people who have been drunk would be quick to answer yes to this question. Perhaps with an accompanying self-deprecating smirk and roll of the eyes.

Now consider this: What was the last really good decision you made while drunk?

A little tougher to answer perhaps?

This post is not intended to condemn alcohol nor anyone who drinks it, myself included.

It just seems important to remind ourselves every so often what we learned in 10th grade health class, that drinking too much alcohol impairs judgment.

Some people have already drunk so much alcohol in their lifetimes, starting as teens, that their judgment is irreparably damaged — which can make it all the more difficult to grasp the concepts that, say, one shouldn't drive after drinking or force oneself sexually upon someone or sleep off a hangover while your toddler plays with fire.

Did you know that a child who drinks alcohol at age 15 is five times more likely to become dependent on alcohol as an adult? And that the human brain is not fully developed until after age 21, so any damage to it before then, like from getting drunk regularly, is permanent? Think about it: We all know someone —  a relative, a co-worker, a neighbor — who is known for his or her drunken escapades and who, even while sober, is quite a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

This reminder to us all comes as summer gets into full swing and hundreds of local high school graduates celebrate with trips to the beach — or just across town to a friend's—that involve an ungodly amount of alcohol consumption. Every year, you hear stories of teens poisoning themselves with alcohol and landing in the ER, and, in some cases, dying.

This post also comes two days after David Lee Hunter of Valley View in Ohio County was convicted of child neglect resulting in the death of his 3-year-old son, Charles. The boy died in March 2009 in a fire that started while Dad was sleeping. Dad escaped. The Associated Press article states: "Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith said Hunter had been drinking that day and slept while the child played" and that the man told investigators little Charles may have been playing with a lighter earlier.

And look at Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's misconduct over the past several months. Whatever you think of Ben or the women involved in the allegations, what is the common denominator here? The overconsumption of alcohol, resulting in impaired judgment.

Deny it all you want. Call me names. Dismiss me as a finger-wagging goody-goody. Whatever. Facts are facts. Alcohol impairs judgment. Ask your 10th grade health teacher. Ask Big Ben. Ask Mr. Hunter, who faces real prison time in addition to his self-made prison constructed of the steel bars of grief and regret.

Perhaps if we all weren't so brainwashed by marketing gimmicks and product placements that persuade us we can't have fun without a beer in hand, we would be quicker to admit the risks and dangers involved when we drink.

Am I going to swear off alcohol or suggest anyone else (other than those who are alcohol dependent or addicted) do so? No. In fact, I'll probably have a margarita with my taco dinner tonight.

I just believe it's a good idea to remind ourselves of those risks and dangers from time to time — preferably without the jolt of a horrific headline news story. I suggest we take heed before our judgment becomes too cloudy ... before we suffer any unnecessary losses ... before we are the next news story.


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