Though they begin to look like adults on the outside, teens are still developing on the inside. A person’s brain develops well into their 20s, which is one reason to worry about the alcohol effect on teenage brains. Call Foothills at Red Oak Recovery at 866.300.5275 for information about our teen alcohol abuse treatment program. We can help your teen achieve the life you deserve.
Alcohol’s Effect on Teenage Brain
The teenage brain is still developing, and alcohol can have a negative effect on it. Alcohol affects how the brain works in many ways. It can:
- Alter the way nerve cells communicate
- Reduce alertness and attention
- Impair memory and decision-making skills
- Increase impulsiveness
- Lead to cognitive impairments in the short-term and long-term
- Impact the development of a person’s personality and social behavior
- Increase the risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
Alcohol abuse during adolescence can also lead to an increased risk of substance abuse in the future.
The Effects of Alcohol Last into Adulthood
Excessive drinking can become problematic for anyone of any age, but the brain’s plasticity makes the alcohol effect on teenage brain structures particularly dangerous.
Alcohol negatively affects the central nervous system. It causes the brain to slow its cognitive functions and makes it harder to process information. An adolescent’s brain is still developing, so the effects on their cerebral cortex are even more dramatic than they are in an adult brain.
Alcohol also affects the brain’s frontal lobes, which are largely responsible for decision-making ability. This is also the area of the brain that oversees emotional control.
Being unable to control emotions and having your ability to make good decisions impaired can lead to risky, impulsive actions that put teens in danger.
Other risks to the brain include:
- Damage to the cerebellum causes loss of balance and coordination
- Depressed medulla function can lead to death (respiratory depression)
- Memory loss due to damaged hippocampus
- Psychological disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia
These effects of alcohol aren’t just temporary inconveniences. Alcohol-related brain damage can be irreversible, especially with heavy use.
Alcohol and Teen Brain Plasticity
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself as it learns more information. Without plasticity, adults would retain only the same amount of knowledge they had when they were born.
During adolescence, the brain is extremely busy processing new experiences. The prefrontal cortex is especially productive at this time, and it is one of the last parts of the brain to reach maturity.
Thanks to plasticity, the brain is constantly trying to adapt to new stimuli. To the brain, alcohol and other substances are nothing more than new information that needs to be understood so the brain can adapt to their presence.
Alcohol triggers the brain’s reward center and causes a release of dopamine, which reinforces the person’s belief that using alcohol is a positive behavior. A teenager’s own brain essentially encourages them to drink alcohol again. This can lead to dangerous levels of alcohol use and the development of an alcohol use disorder.
Possible Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
Younger people run a greater risk of developing long-term cognitive problems, such as impulse control, memory loss, and balance problems, due to alcohol misuse. The earlier a person starts using alcohol, the greater the risk for addiction and permanent brain damage.
Research has shown that 47% of individuals who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 14 develop an alcohol use disorder. Fortunately, teen alcohol abuse treatment is available and effective.
Teen Alcohol Abuse Treatment at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery
Foothills at Red Oak Recovery provides a safe, welcoming environment for adolescent and teen boys to heal from substance and alcohol use disorders, process disorders, co-occurring mental health concerns, and more. If a teenager needs the support of a treatment program, call Foothills at Red Oak Recovery today at 866.300.5275 or use our convenient online form to learn more about teen alcohol abuse treatment.