Underage drinking can damage a teen’s brain. For example, when a person, of any age, drinks too much alcohol their coordination, speech and decision making are all affected. Drinking in excess or getting drunk is dangerous for anyone. It can lead to drunk driving, dumb decisions, physical injury or alcohol poisoning. Often times this impact of alcohol use is where parent’s stop thinking about the damage alcohol can do. If your teen is drinking they could be causing permanent damage to their brains.
A young person’s brain is not fully developed until they are 25 years old. This means that anything they do to harm the brain before the brain is developed can have severe consequences both now and in the future.
There are specific areas of the brain that are more affected by alcohol more than others. The first is the part of the brain where learning and memory occur, called the hippocampus (hippo-cam-pus). Drinking too much or drinking too often can damage the hippocampus making learning and remembering hard. This means alcohol use outside of school can affect your child at school, because alcohol use damages the developing parts of the brain and impacts learning and remembering or focusing during class.
The frontal lobe is another part of the brain damaged by alcohol.. This part of your brain is where you make decisions and have self-control. When alcohol damages this part of the brain it can lead to poor decision making, like drinking and driving; lack of self-control, like acting out in class; and violence.
A teen is also more likely to become addicted to alcohol, both now and into adulthood when they start drinking earlier in life. A person who begins drinking prior to age 21 years old is four times more likely to become an alcoholic later in life than someone who waits until they are 21. If there is a history of substance abuse or addiction in your family that risk is even greater.
The silent damage alcohol is doing to your child’s brain can affect their relationships, ability to drive, grades and career path both now and in the future. When talking with your teen about alcohol, be sure to mention these dangers and the choices they make have life-long, life-changing consequences.