Alcohol is the drug of choice for young people. In fact, alcohol is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. Although most children under age l4 have not yet begun to drink, early adolescence is a time of special risk for beginning to experiment with alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant on the central nervous system (the nerve tissues that control the activities of the body). Alcohol can appear to stimulate or energize a person at first, then it depresses the part of the brain that controls inhibitions.
Alcohol affects a teenager’s brain growth in many ways. Check out the effects on different parts of the brain below:
FRONTAL LOBES – The area right behind the forehead, is responsible for controlling behavior. Including planning, forming ideas, making decisions using self-control. This part of the brain continues to develop until late teens or early 20’s. Damage from alcohol during these years can cause severe behavioral and personality changes that can be long term or permanent.
HIPPOCAMPUS – The area deep inside the brain, is responsible for learning and memory. When drinking alcohol, a person may have trouble remembering something. Drinking a lot of alcohol quickly can cause a blackout – not being able to remember what he or she did last night. Early exposure to alcohol can cause permanent damage to a teen’s learning and memory.
Violence, poor academic performance, promiscuity, arrest and many other dangers. Teens who drink are at a much higher risk for developing mental illnesses such as depression which greatly increases their risk of suicide.
Alcohol poisoning is a serious risk for underage drinkers, as they have not yet developed the part of their brain that makes them go to sleep or pass out from drinking too much. They can consume dangerous amounts of alcohol before their bodies realize it, resulting in alcohol poisoning. This causes difficulty breathing, unconsciousness and death.
Car accidents are the number one killer of Montana teens; more than 1/3 of teen traffic deaths are alcohol related. Everyone who gets into a car with an alcohol impaired driver is at risk.
While some parents and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is "only" drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Not only does alcohol affect the mind and body in often unpredictable ways, but teens lack the judgment and coping skills to handle alcohol wisely.
Let's face it, it's difficult to start a conversation about alcohol use; the important thing is that you start.