February 23, Studies at McLean Hospital and elsewhere have shown that alcohol affects the brains of adolescents in profound and dangerous ways. During the teenage and early adult years, the brain is still developing, making it more vulnerable to alcohol than the adult brain. Moreover, research indicates that the earlier a person starts drinking , the more likely that person will develop serious problems with alcohol or drug addiction later in life. Because of the serious short- and long-term effects of alcohol use and misuse, it is essential that teens, parents, teachers, and health professionals gain a deeper understanding of teenage drinking and brain development , and we must all work together to dispel common misconceptions about teens and alcohol. The CDC reports that excessive underage drinking is responsible for more than 4, deaths among individuals each year.
In the United States, the law says that a person must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol. However, many people are tempted to drink while underage either from peer pressure or because of parents who drink. Regardless of the reason, statistics show that three out of every four teenagers in high school have experimented with alcohol. But studies show that alcohol has more dangerous effects on adolescent brains than adult brains. Alcohol can damage every brain, but for teenagers, the damage is more severe and can occur with smaller amounts of alcohol than with adults. For people in their early 20s and younger, there is an inverse relationship between the age of the person drinking alcohol and the damage that it does to their brain. This means that the younger a person is when they drink alcohol, the greater the damage from alcohol.
Linda Patia Spear, Ph. We do know that early initiation of alcohol use remains one of the most powerful predictors of later alcohol abuse Grant We also know that during adolescence changes occur in the regions of the brain involved in modulating drug reinforcement, so it cannot be assumed that factors precipitating alcohol use or abuse are the same in adolescence as in adulthood. Rapidly changing body systems often are particularly vulnerable to disruption, and hence long—term consequences may result from alcohol exposure during this time of accelerated neural and endocrine system maturation Spear a.
Throughout your teens and into your twenties, your brain continues to grow and change as the synapses that connect all the different neurons become more complex and efficient. Research shows that drinking alcohol while your brain is developing might stall or alter this process. One part of the brain that is affected by alcohol is the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a sea horse shaped area deep inside your brain that is responsible for learning and memory.