Teenage alcohol consumption is a growing problem in America. More and more teens are being attracted to drinking alcohol at younger ages. In fact, the National Institute of Health found that in a 2013 National Survey on Drug Usage and Health (NSDUH), approximately 5.4 million people between the ages of 12-20 reported partaking in alcohol consumption within a month-long period.
While this figure may seem minuscule considering the U.S teen population totals over 40 million, it shows that more teens are drinking alcohol before the legal age than ever before. Although a growing number of teenagers are deciding to partake in the usage of alcohol, many teens still fail to realize the large effects it has on their minds, bodies and emotions.
Teenage alcohol usage has great effects on teenagers mentally. Alcohol has intrinsic negative harms for all people. Alcohol causes impaired memory, slurred speech, difficulty walking and other adverse mental effects. However, when alcohol is consumed by teens, the results are much more costly. The teenage brain is still developing at a consistent rate as teens grow up. However, alcohol is a depressant, which essentially means it slows the functions of the nervous system.
Alcohol acts on the nerve cells of the brain and disrupts the communication between nerves cells and other cells of the body. Alcohol does this by altering the actions of two major neurotransmitters in the brain.
These neurotransmitters allow nerve cells to communicate. Therefore, alcohol has a significant impact on the cognitive function of teenagers. This impact can spur a myriad of detriments. The George Washington University Medical Center explains that “drinking can affect the biological development of young people as well as their school-related achievement and behavior.” Additionally, underage alcohol usage can lead to future dependence on the drug.
Additionally, underage alcohol usage can lead to future dependence on the drug. Researchers have found that teens who use alcohol are more susceptible to addiction in the future because the pleasure center of the brain matures before the impulse control and decision-making centers of the brain do. These effects on the brain, decision-making and overall well-being of teenagers seem to suggest that alcohol has more harms on the brain than benefits
Not only does teenage alcohol usage have mental effects, it also affects teenagers bodies and has other major physical impacts. Teenagers who consume alcohol can feel dizziness, euphoria and impaired motor skills in small doses. Additionally, they can experience poor vision, slow reaction and sleep disruption. Alcohol overdose in teens can cause two major events, “blackouts” and “hangovers.” Blackouts occur when teens are not able to remember the events that occurred while they were drinking. This is not to be confused with passing out, where a teenager would lose complete consciousness.
Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that blackouts are most common among teenagers. In an article published by Live Science, it was found that “almost every teen who drinks alcohol has had at least one blackout with many teens even reporting having them regularly.” These blackouts are extremely dangerous especially when dangerous or illegal actions, other than underage drinking, occur while consuming alcohol, such as unsafe sexual behavior.
Hangovers occur when the blood alcohol level starts to return to normal. These hangovers usually occur the morning after excessive drinking. They can cause headaches, nausea and rapid heartbeats. These physicals effects, coupled with the mental effects of alcohol consumption on teens, have very negative implications about the immense and severe effects that alcohol consumption can have on teenagers.
Moreover, Alcohol abuse specifically can have horrible effects on teenager’s emotional stability and feelings. Teenagers can experience mood swings, become verbally or physically abusive, hide in their rooms and even lie and make excuses. Alcohol can also mask the effects of important emotional issues such as depression and anxiety. These dangerous effects have a sizeable effect on teenage development. These actions can create distance between the teenager and their parents. It can cause arguments, fights and other extreme actions. A stable emotional state in teens is vital to maintaining healthy emotional growth and relationships. However, alcohol only hinders this process and leaves room for future problems to occur.
It is clear that alcohol has many negative effects on teenagers that cover a span of areas. These effects make it very clear that there is a need for more education about alcoholism and alcohol abuse targeted towards teenagers. Many teens feel pressured into drinking alcohol in today’s society. The fact remains that alcohol has no intrinsic benefit to teenagers anywhere. Given the recent studies and trials that have been conducted on teenage alcoholism, however, it shows that the issue is becoming increasingly conversed about. This, along with greater education, are the first steps to curb teenage alcohol usage and its negative harms.