Alcohol harms the brain in teen years –– before and after that, too – Harvard Health Blog

If we only pay attention to advertisements, it may seem that alcohol – a beer or a glass of wine, a fiery glass of liquor or a fancy cocktail – served only to bring people together and make them happy. . Drinking responsibly, the advertisements flicker, without ever explaining the results of frequent or excessive alcohol consumption, especially at certain stages of life. Because alcohol doesn’t just get us drunk, impair our judgment and hurt our liver – it can have many other harmful effects on our bodies, including effects on the brain.

In a recent editorial by BMJ, a trio of scientists pointed out that there are three periods in life when the brain undergoes major changes and is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Two of these periods are at the beginning and at the end of life. When pregnant women drink alcohol, it can damage the developing brain of the fetus, leading to physical problems, learning disabilities, and behavioral issues. When people over 65 drink alcohol, it can worsen the declines in brain function that occur with aging.

The third period is adolescence. During these years of transition from childhood to adulthood, the brain develops and changes in many important ways that are essential for this transition to be successful. When teens and young adults drink alcohol, it can interfere with this brain development process in ways that affect the rest of their lives.

Alcohol use among adolescents and young adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol is the most common substance used by young people in the United States. Although rates of alcohol use and heavy drinking have declined over the past decades, national surveys show that among youth and young adults, one in five reported having consumed alcohol in the past. over the past 30 days and one in 10 reported binge drinking. The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that more than a quarter of high school students had drunk alcohol in the 30 days prior to the survey, and one in seven said they had consumed alcohol. alcohol excessively during the same period.

There are a lot of young people who could change their brains – and their lives – forever.

Here’s what parents of teens can and should do:

  • Talk to your teens about alcohol and its effects – all of them. Make sure they have the facts.
  • Have strict rules about drinking alcohol and the consequences if those rules are not followed. Yes, it’s normal for teens to experiment, but if you put up with going to parties with alcohol, alcohol, or driving while drinking, it could literally ruin your child’s life – or put it at risk. end.
  • Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends and work on having shared community responsibility to keep everyone safe.
  • Set a good example. Drink responsibly, just like these ads encourage.

For more tips on how to talk to your teenager and strategies for preventing alcohol use and abuse, visit the website for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse.

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Jothi Venkat

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