Teen Health Risks

Image Credit: Daniel G. Amen, M.D. (www.amenclinics.com)

Research continues to discover the physical, neurobiological, psychological and social consequences of teenage drinking. The costs of early heavy drinking, experts say, appear to extend far beyond the time that drinking takes away from doing homework, dating, acquiring social skills, and the related tasks of growing up. Mounting research suggests that alcohol causes more damage to the developing brains of teenagers than was previously thought, injuring them significantly more than it does adult brains. The findings, though preliminary, have demolished the assumption that people can drink heavily for years before causing themselves significant neurological injury. Research even suggests that early heavy drinking may undermine the precise neurological capacities needed to protect oneself from alcoholism. For every one of us, regardless of our age, knowledge is power. Armed with the facts, we can help our kids choose health over alcohol.

IT IS ILLEGAL. Teenage drinking is abusing alcohol; because it is illegal.

ALCOHOL INTERFERES WITH PHYSICAL HEALTH AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT. Research shows that the brain keeps developing well into the 20's. Alcohol alters this development, affecting both brain structure and function. This may cause cognitive or learning problems and/or make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence, especially when people start drinking young and drinking heavily.

ALCOHOL IMPAIRS JUDGMENT. Drinking often leads to poor decisions about engaging in risky behavior -- drinking and driving, sexual activity (such as unprotected sex), and aggressive or violent behavior. Drinking can cause teens to have trouble in school or with the law.

ALCOHOL INCREASES THE RISK OF PHYSICAL AND SEXUAL ASSAULT. Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.

ALCOHOL IS A GATEWAY DRUG. Alcohol, for some, opens the door to using stronger, more dangerous substances like heroin, meth and opioids.

ALCOHOL CAN CAUSE DEATH AND INJURY. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that nationally, on average, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year. This includes deaths from auto crashes, homicides, alcohol poisoning, falls, burns, drowning and suicide. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for alcohol-related injuries.

ALCOHOL INCREASES THE RISK OF PROBLEMS LATER IN LIFE. Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to meet the criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives.