Think Teenage Drinking Is No Big Deal? Here's Why the Effects of Alcohol Should Be Concerning to All Parents by Joy Stephenson-Laws JD
If you are a parent to adolescent or teenage children, you probably fear that they may drink and drive or get in the car with a drunk driver. And that is a very valid fear, considering that about a quarter of all car crashes with teens involve an underage drinking driver, according to MADD.
But have you ever considered the detrimental effects alcohol may have on your child’s developing brain? Several studies suggest that the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25 (with some reports saying that the peak of your brain’s powers occur around age 22). This means there are many years of opportunity for the developing brain to be exposed to the consumption of alcohol and perhaps even binge drinking.
The average age an adolescent male will first try alcohol is 11. The average age for an adolescent female is 13. In addition to this, “Alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teenagers in the United States. Significant statistics regarding alcohol use in teens suggest that about half of junior high and senior high school students drink alcohol on a monthly basis, and 14 percent of teens have been intoxicated at least once in the past year. Nearly 8 percent of teens who drink say they drink at least five or more alcoholic drinks in a row (binge drink),” according to MedicineNet.com.
Alcohol’s effect on the developing brain can be very damaging. “Heavy drinking has been shown to affect the neuropsychological performance (e.g., memory functions) of young people and may impair the growth and integrity of certain brain structures. Furthermore, alcohol consumption during adolescence may alter measures of brain functioning, such as blood flow in certain brain regions and electrical brain activities,” reports the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Certain cognitive functions may also be affected by heavy drinking, such as decision-making and learning. Social behavior, personality and the ability to interact with people may also be impacted. What remains to be seen is whether ... alcohol exposure during this age range alter the lifetime learning ability of individuals.”
But we cannot afford to wait and see what happens as our children get older to determine how their brains are impacted by alcohol. As parents, we have to be proactive in educating our children about responsible use of alcohol from an early age and continue to reinforce these messages when they are older and more subject to peer pressure. One way we can help our teenagers is to identify the negative effects of excess drinking, such as:
- Hair loss.
- Vitamin and mineral depletion, especially B vitamins.
- Blackouts, which may lead to risky behaviors like driving under the influence and unprotected sex. It also may make someone more of a target for a sexual assault.
- Alcohol-related brain damage, high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Reduced cognitive abilities (difficulty concentrating, trouble studying or making decisions).
- Poor academic performance.
- Increased probability of substance abuse and chronic disease in later life.
- Social problems (fights, violence, dysfunctional relationships).
- Legal problems.
Learn more at pHLabs.com.
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