Thinking about drinking? Get the Facts before you do.
Alcohol abuse hurts.
Drinking might not seem like a big deal, but research shows that binge drinking as a teen can have big consequences.
It’s bad enough when adults drink too much. They can become alcoholics, cause car accidents, or create a dysfunctional family due to their lack of being able to fulfill their duties. The same is true for teens. But, even worse: Drinking can stunt teen brains.
This is no joke. You may have learned about the risks associated with binge drinking at a health class or in school. You get it. But here is the thing. New research on normal teen brains is providing some pretty good reasons why it is so bad to drink.
The scientific evidence shows that adolescent brains are not fully developed – they continue to grow and sprout neurons. As teenagers mature and learn new skills and tasks, the brain becomes more and more fine-tuned. And drinking can disrupt that development — with potentially dire results. Drinking too much can damage memory, capacity to learn, and other brain functions that have to do with impulse control and decision-making. And it’s possible such damage could continue into adulthood.
Teenage binge drinking that leads to blackouts can be particularly damaging, the research says. A study by Sandra Brown and Susan Tapert at the University of California, San Diego, for example, found that young women who’d been binge drinkers as adolescents had “sluggish” brain processes.
In other words, several years of heavy drinking while a teenager can cause potentially long-term brain damage.
Brain damage is bad enough. But alcohol can also:
- Lead to poor judgment. Because alcohol depresses your central nervous system, it can lower your inhibitions and cause you to make choices you wouldn’t normally make — like driving when you shouldn’t, or having sex when you didn’t plan to.
- Put you at risk for various life-threatening diseases. Including cancer!
- Kill you. Worst-case scenario: if you drink too much alcohol at once you can get alcohol poisoning, which can lead to a coma or even death. Intoxicated teens are more likely to die from choking on their vomit or freezing to death (hypothermia) after passing out, and die in drunk driving-related accidents.
Every year, more than 5,000 deaths of people under age 21 are linked to underage drinking.
- The younger you are when you start binge drinking, the likelier you are to develop an alcohol use problem when you get older. Studies show that more than one-third of alcoholic adults started binge drinking before they were 19. Nearly half started drinking before age 14.
- Each year, alcohol plays a role in the deaths of approximately 5,000 young people under age 21. About 1,900 of these deaths are from car crashes. Even one drink can slow your reaction time when you’re driving.
- Compared to nondrinkers, teen binge drinkers are more likely to have other problems, such as smoking, stealing, getting into fights, skipping school, getting raped, using other drugs, feeling depressed, or attempting suicide.
If you think you drink too much
Do you drink often? Do you drink alone? Are you having trouble in school? If you think you’re drinking too much, the best thing is to get treatment. You could start by talking to one of your parents or looking online for substance abuse/alcohol abuse treatment centers that offer the services that you think you might need.