Teen Drinking and How It Affects Brain Development
Teen Drinking Affects Brain Development, Which Can Follow Them All Through Adulthood
Most teens think they are drinking responsibly as long as they do not get in trouble with law enforcement or end up with a bad hangover. However, the long-term effects that alcohol consumption can cause on an adolescent brain can be permanent, which is something that most teenagers do not realize. During alcohol awareness month, we believe that it is important to educate teens about the consequences that can arise when they consume alcohol at a young age. Teen drinking is a problem nationwide, but with your education efforts, we can decrease the problems that arise through alcohol consumption.
Teens Are More Likely to Binge Drink
Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance, surpassing any other drug among youth. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), people between the ages of 12 and 20, drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. While minors do not have as much accessibility to alcohol as adults do, when they do drink, they consume a large amount, or binge drink. In other words, teenagers who do drink are drinking at a much higher consumption rate than a person over 21 would, because it is not as readily available to them.
Excessive drinking is not healthy for any person at any age, but people under the legal drinking age are affected much more. Binge drinking not only affects the people around them but also how their mind and body function long term. Those who tend to drink more excessively are more likely to struggle with mental, behavioral, and brain structure development problems.
Underaged Drinkers Are More Likely to Make Poor Decisions That Can Follow Them Forever
When people drink, their judgement is impaired. Drinking can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior, such as drinking and driving, unprotected sexual activity, and aggressive or violent behavior. For teenagers, the rash, bad decisions are amplified to a higher degree. No matter how high their SAT or ACT score might be, teenagers will have a more impaired sense of judgement than the average adult would under the influence.
It is not solely because an adult has a higher tolerance than a teenager does to alcohol, but because an adult brain is fully developed and can instinctively make more rational decisions. When the brain is fully developed, adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that has to do with reasoning and decision-making. The prefrontal cortex is also the last area of the brain to develop fully.
Teens, however, process more information through the amygdala, or the emotional part of the brain. When people consume alcohol, especially teenagers, emotional thinking intensifies, leading to more “in the moment” decisions and actions without thinking long-term. These decisions can follow someone for the rest of their life and result in events such as an unexpected pregnancy or an arrest that will stay on their record, affecting college scholarships and employment.
Teen Drinking Affects Their Brain’s Development
As stated above, a teenager’s way of thinking is not the same as an adult’s. This is not to say that teenagers are incapable of making decisions on their own, but rather their brain has not fully developed yet. Because the brain continues to develop into your mid-20s, teens who consume alcohol can damage their brain more severely than an adult whose brain is fully developed. If a teenager or adolescent abuses alcohol while their brain is still developing, important brain structures and functions could weaken or possibly never mature.
Permanent Changes to the Brain Caused by Excessive Teen Drinking Could Include:
- Coordination Problems
- Lack of Impulse Control
- Emotional Immaturity
- Memory Problems
- Inability to Distinguish Short-Term and Long-Term Rewards
- Increased Risk of Developing an Addiction to Alcohol
How You Can Help Lower the Teen Alcohol Abuse Statistic
Teenagers are still not taught why drinking as a minor is a serious problem, even if they may think that they are drinking responsibly. It is not just a matter of drinking responsibly; it is a matter of not drinking at all to prevent health and mental development problems that are connected to teen alcohol abuse.
To help with your program with its alcohol prevention efforts, Primo Prevention offers an extensive variety of alcohol education materials. Start educating to prevent teen drinking and order from Primo Prevention today.
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