Copyright Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. Chapter 9 Alcohol 273 S antiago and Priya are in seventh grade together and have the same group of friends. Priya’s family is very open about drinking alcohol. Her older siblings are still under 21 years old, but are allowed to moderately drink alcohol at family dinners. Priya herself has tried a small amount of alcohol before at a family party. Her parents also frequently drive home after drinking. Santiago’s family is not this accepting of alcohol. They would never let Santiago drink alcohol until he turns 21, and they would never drive drunk. Santiago’s cousin ended up in the hospital last year because of alcohol poisoning from heavy drinking. It opened Santiago’s eyes to just how dangerous alcohol can be. Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States (Figure 9.1). Drinking alcohol has an immediate effect on the body, and can cause lifelong health issues. In this lesson, you will learn about alcohol use and the damaging effect alcohol can have on people’s health and lives. Alcohol Use Alcohol is a type of drug (known as a depressant) found in drinks—such as beer, wine, and liquor—that can cause a person to act and feel differently. In the United States, a person must be 21 years of age to legally drink alcohol. Following are people who should not drink alcohol: • people under 21 years of age • women who are pregnant or may be pregnant • people who are driving or operating equipment • people who are taking certain medications • people who are unable to control their alcohol use or who have a family history of alcohol-use disorders About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. nnattalli/Shutterstock.com Figure 9.1 Alcohol can lead to death in many ways, including liver failure, car accidents, and alcohol poisoning. How old does a person have to be in the United States to legally drink alcohol?