The Effects of Alcohol on Youth Development

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol on Youth Development and How Alcohol Affects the Teenage Brain

Let’s be honest; teenage drinking isn’t necessarily a new concept. Just because the legal drinking age in the United States is 21 and older, teenagers often find ways to get their hands on beer and other alcoholic beverages during social events like parties, homecoming, and prom. However, what may seem like a harmless night at a party having a few beers, can turn into so much more. The effects of alcohol on youth development are anything, but harmless.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, nearly 80% of high school students have consumed alcohol. Unfortunately, what seems like a typical and rebellious adolescent activity can actually be harmful in the long run. The effects of alcohol on youth development have been scientifically proven. So, aside from the obvious risk of car accidents caused by alcohol-induced impaired judgment, there are other risks that teenagers face when they consume alcohol, especially on a regular basis.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Teenage Brain?

Contrary to what many teenagers may believe, a hangover isn’t the only physical consequence of a drunken night. Neurological studies have proven that when two teenage brains were scanned (one of a teen that doesn’t drink and one who drinks frequently), there was obvious nerve tissue damage in the brain of the adolescent who drank. This damage to nerve tissue affects functions such as attention span, and comprehension and interpretation of visual information.

The effects of alcohol on youth development occur more quickly because of the vulnerability of the adolescent brain; this is because the brain is still in the process of developing during the teenage years, so it’s more sensitive to the toxicity of alcohol.

Psychological studies have students who exhibit signs of binge drinking (consuming four to five drinks per social event) had a harder time remembering events and did more poorly on memory tests than students who have never consumed alcohol. Another observation showed that gender played a part in the effects of alcohol on the teenage body. For example, girls who had abused alcohol seemed to struggle more with critical thinking involving mathematical functions, whereas boys who drank struggled up to 10% more with focusing and paying attention.

Scientifically speaking, neurologists have explained that upon reviewing brain scans of teenagers who drink, the evidence of damaged white matter (nerve tissue) indicates that brains cells aren’t communicating as properly as they should.

To put it short for any teenager who asks, “How does alcohol affect the teenage brain?” inform them that aside from the obvious of becoming alcohol-dependent, it also damages nerve tissue and affects their memory, attention span, and overall brain development.

Other Effects of Alcohol on the Teenage Body

Teenagers experiment with alcohol for a few different reasons: the desire to look cool and fit in, peer pressure, depression, and adolescent stress. If you are the parent of a teenager and feel as though your teen has possibly started to consume or abuse alcohol, here are a few acute effects of alcohol on the teenage body that you should watch for:

  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Poor vision
  • Trouble controlling muscles

Other effects of alcohol on youth development include poor performance in school, social problems and withdrawing from society, mood alteration, and possible alcohol addiction in the future.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.