18 Oct Your brain on alcohol
Your brain deserves special attention here.
Drinking alcohol during the teen years can interfere with normal brain functioning both now in your teen years AND later as an adult. Yes, consuming alcohol now can cause permanent changes to your brain. And, yes, we get it, being an adult feels SO far away from now, but trust us, when you are an adult, you’ll be grateful for every working brain cell!
Here is what happens:
- Alcohol has a greater effect on the teen brain than on an adult brain. Because your brains are developing, everything that happens in your brain (good, bad and ugly) happens more intensely. This is because during this time of growth you actually have MORE synapses in your brains than adults do. This means you have more places where alcohol can have an impact.
- Because your brains are developing, that also means that your brains aren’t as fully functioning as an adult’s. So your control center doesn’t have full control. Alcohol then takes away even more control. You can translate that into making really poor decisions that can be life threatening when you drink alcohol, especially because your brains are primed to take risks. As a teen, you are supposed to take risks to learn how to venture out on your own away from your family. So the formula looks like this: half working control center plus an increased desire to take risk plus alcohol = DUMB AND POSSIBLY DEADLY DECISIONS.
- Because your brains are developing, your brains are RIPE (totally ready!!) to absorb new habits. If you drink, you are more at risk than an adult for developing addiction because your brain is saying, “Oh, here’s something I can learn how to do for the rest of my life! Let’s wire in the desire to drink!” When you learn how to play the flute or kick a soccer ball or code a computer, your brain is forming synapses to perform those things. When you drink alcohol regularly, your brain is forming synapses that create a heightened response to alcohol.
(Source: from an interview with Dr. Frances E. Jensen, chair of the neurology department at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania and co-author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, written and posted on the blog: https://grownandflown.com/binge-drinking-danger-teen-brains/)
So the summary is this: Drinking alcohol now is risky because alcohol affects the teen brain more than an adult’s, your brain already doesn’t have full control and that can set you up for addiction.
So let’s summarize this: Your brain does not stop developing new cellular connections and making important changes and advances until you are in your mid-twenties (even then it keeps developing new cellular connections but not at the rate it is growing and changing now). Because of this “developing stage,” alcohol has a greater impact on the brain both because more synapses exist and because your brain isn’t fully in control. Thus, when people choose to start drinking at a young age, they are priming their brain for potential long-term addiction to alcohol.
What part of this brain information stood out to you? Did your brain absorb this information easily (get it?)?