AAAS surveyed about 150 middle school students on their knowledge of alcohol and science. The result: They know almost nothing. Here is some of what we learned:
1. What are the main body systems affected by alcohol?
Thirty percent of respondents could not answer the question, 10% mentioned at least one body system that is affected by alcohol, and the rest named organs or gave answers that didn’t respond to the question.
(Correct Answer: All body systems are affected by alcohol because it throws through them in our blood. The major ones affected are the central nervous, cardiovascular, digestive and endocrine systems).
2. What is the alcohol that people drink made from?
Almost 50% of students had no idea where alcohol came from. Six percent thought it came from a plant, and 12% said it came from a combination of yeast, barley, hops, grapes, or a combination of all three. A few responses:
• I do not know. I think you make wine by squishing fruit in a tub.
• I think it is made from corn.
• Nicotine I think, or is that only cigarettes?
• I don’t really know, but there must be some kind of addictive material in there, right?
(Correct Answer: Alcohol comes from fermentation, the process through which carbohydrates such as sugar are turned into alcohol. Sugar is found in fruits such as grapes, which is how wine is made.)
3. Why does alcohol make people drunk?
Twenty nine percent did not know the answer, and the rest thought they knew, guessed, or provided some semblance of a correct answer. Responses included:
• Nerves in the body get over-active, and then you have no control over them.
• Alcohol affects your blood system and causes your brain to not function clearly.
• It messes up the immune system.
• Many chemicals are in the drink that the body can't handle it.
• Alcohol slows down the nervous system.
(Correct Answer: Ethyl alcohol is a psychoactive drug, meaning it’s a chemical that alters brain function, causing temporary changes in behavior, mood, and perception, among other things.)
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