Risks of Alcohol Use
For teenagers, the impacts of alcohol on the brain and body can be severe and long-lasting. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down the brain and body’s primary functions.
For adults, this can mean impaired judgment, mood changes, and even loss of consciousness. For teenagers, the short and long-term effects are even more severe. In a still-developing brain, the impacts of alcohol can be long-lasting and even deadly.
Short- and Long-Term Impacts of Alcohol
In the short-term, alcohol can cause slowed thinking, poor judgment, sleep issues, mood swings, and even alcohol poisoning. However, long-term effects are even more severe.
- Irregular heartbeat and permanent heart damage
- High blood pressure
- Increased tolerance, dependence, and addiction
- Liver disease including hepatitis and cirrhosis, which can be fatal
- Increased risk of cancer
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or “wet brain.”
These impacts are critical for adults. But for teenagers, they can be even worse.
How Alcohol Impacts the Teenage Brain Differently
Researchers have found that alcohol impacts teenagers differently. Over the last five years, numerous studies, including some from a hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School, have been conducted on how alcohol affects teenagers differently.
These impacts include:
- Higher chance of addiction- the younger someone starts drinking, the more likely they are to develop alcoholism
- Long-term issues with learning, memory, and decision-making
- Increased risk of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning
- Brain damage, especially shrinkage of vital areas of the brain
- Higher-risk behaviors like drunk driving and unprotected sex
So, why does alcohol impact teenagers differently? Generally, it has everything to do with the brain. Before the age of 25, the brain is still growing and developing. Teenagers have decreased ability to make the right decisions because the part of the brain responsible for decisions (the pre-frontal cortex) isn’t fully-formed yet. Thus, leading to high-risk drinking and more health issues. As a result, the brain develops differently, leading to long-term damage.
The Importance of Prevention and Treatment
Teenagers must receive education on the impacts of alcohol and the risks they face from drinking. Because the risk of alcoholism increases when someone starts drinking at a young age, preventing or even delaying experimentation is vital.
It takes more than just education and prevention, however. Unfortunately, many teenagers have already started drinking. Some even become addicted before they are legally able to drink. In these cases, early, effective treatment can stop the process and prevent further damage. If you are concerned about your child’s drinking- or your own- it’s essential to get help as soon as possible. Call us today for information about alcohol treatment programs for you, your child, or a loved one.