How does alcohol affect the brain of a teenager? The alcohol consumed without moderation by adolescents could damage their brains irreversibly. In fact, drinking, even occasionally, can have harmful consequences for the adolescent, whether physiologically, psychologically or socially. The earlier the consumption, that is to say when it intervenes before twelve years, the more it constitutes a factor of subsequent risks. If it takes several years of regular and excessive use to produce health complications, there are many shorter-term risks for adolescents.
Early alcoholizations promote progression to chronic alcoholism and other addictions. After experimenting with alcohol, the first intoxication and experimentation of tobacco and cannabis occur afterward.
Alcohol distorts judgment and perceptions. People under the influence of alcohol recognize that their reaction time is longer than when they have not been drinking and that they take risks that they would not take in their normal state. Too often, these risks are fatal.
In the United States, about 10 million teenagers drink alcohol. And almost half of them are overeating, drinking five or more drinks in one evening. In fact, miners drink 19 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
Flavored alcoholic beverages are popular among young drinkers.
Alcohol is the first psychoactive substance consumed in France. Of the 11-year-old students, 58% say they have ever had an alcoholic drink. Among middle school students, 34% report having already experienced alcoholic intoxication. And at age 17, 53% of boys and girls report having experienced significant occasional alcoholism in the last month (the consumption of at least 5 glasses of alcohol on the same occasion).
How does alcohol affect the brain of a teenager also in conjunction with other drugs? Teenagers who drink alcohol are also the ones who smoke the most tobacco. The relationship to alcohol and tobacco is learned very early in life, and these two behaviors are often linked. Thus, smoking in adulthood is frequently correlated with early consumption of alcohol.
The very early consumption of alcohol in young children (at school or during the first years of college) is very worrying. This intake of alcohol is often ignored. It is socially unacceptable and therefore hidden. Studies in the field, however, find drunkenness well before high school in children at risk.
Children or teenagers drinking alcohol secretly find themselves in a situation of academic failure. They are subject to various forms of violence and exclusions that in turn reinforce their consumption even more.
*** Towards an Increase in Alcoholizations
Studies show that teenage drinking is becoming more common. It is often realized in the form of drunkenness. Boys continue to be more alcoholic than girls, but girls are catching up at high speed. Regular alcohol consumption among adults is decreasing, but there is an upsurge in extreme behavior among young people.
We find the taking of danger in the “binge drinking”. This practice is to get drunk massively and quickly, often during the weekend or at parties. The way to get there is simple: drink as much alcohol as you can.
I – What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a drug. It is classified as a depressant, that is, it slows down vital functions, causing difficulty in articulation, a lack of coordination of movements, distorted perceptions and an inability to react quickly. It is a drug that reduces a person’s ability to think rationally and changes their judgment.
There are different kinds of alcohols. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol), the only alcohol used for drinks, is produced by the fermentation of grains and fruits. Fermentation is a chemical process by which yeast acts on certain ingredients in food, creating alcohol.
Fermented drinks, such as beer and wine, contain between 2% and 20% alcohol. Distilled drinks, or liqueurs, contain between 40 and 50% alcohol or more.
II – How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain of a Teenager?
1 – the Adolescent Brain Is More Sensitive to the Damage Caused by Alcohol
According to a study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) in February 2015, the adolescent brain is more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than adults.
At this age, the developing brain would not be able to repair the damage of ethanol. In addition, drinking alcohol would reduce neuron manufacturing and reduce immediate memory. These findings were observed in the laboratory on rodents.
To understand the effects of being drinking on the brain, the researchers conducted a study on mice. They exposed teenage and adult animals to excessive alcohol consumption. Then, they observed the gene modifications and subjected the rodents to behavioral tests.
The study reveals that excessive alcohol consumption during adolescence alters the number of certain genes needed to repair DNA damage and prevents the correction of ethanol damage. It would also reduce neurogenesis (formation of new neurons) in younger rodents. The latter had greater difficulties than adults to circulate in labyrinths or to recognize objects. This reflects a decline in short-term memory. These effects were not observed in adult mice.
It also suggests the accumulation of damage caused by alcohol at each excessive intake.
Researchers point out that drinking in reasonable amounts seems to have other negative consequences for adolescents. It would modify synaptic connections and increase the subsequent risk of dependence.
This work, together with other evidence of the deleterious effects of alcohol during adolescence, is an additional incentive to abstinence during this period of life.
2 – How Does Alcohol Affect the Body of Girls? Girls Are More Vulnerable
A study from the University of California, San Diego, published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research in August 2011, shows that excessive drinking during adolescence affects brain development, particularly among girls.
As a teenager, the brain matures significantly, especially in the frontal regions that are associated with certain levels of thinking, such as planning and organization. Heavy alcohol consumption can disrupt the normal growth of brain cells, which could interfere with adolescents’ ability to progress academically and sports and have lasting effects, especially in girls.
The woman is more vulnerable, because of a proportion of less water in the body: 50% against 60% for a man. Their brains develop earlier, one to two years before boys; while alcohol acts on hormonal fluctuations, and is accompanied by a different effect in women because of a specific metabolism and fat-weight distribution.
Alcohol decreases the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) synthesized in the hypothalamus, resulting in significant dehydration to which the brain is highly sensitive. Ethanol has depressed brain function, including toxic effects on the white matter, responsible for the spread of information in the nervous system. Alcohol is a neurotoxin, a real poison. It is not for nothing that it is forbidden for pregnant women.
This would cause irreversible damage to the white matter of the brain among the followers of binge drinking. It is responsible for the transmission of information. It is the part of the central nervous system, white in color, which consists of nerve fibers. It is thus designated as opposed to the gray cerebral cortex, which manages the processing of information.
The study was conducted with about one hundred adolescents, aged 16 to 19, divided into two groups according to whether or not they practiced “binge drinking”. The participants were subjected to neurological tests and magnetic resonance (functional MRI). For the same task, heavy drinkers have less activation in several regions of the brain, lesions in the white matter and this more significantly in young girls. These teenage differences include poorer performance on attention and memory measures.
3 – Risk of Dependence
An Inserm expert’s report “Addictive Conduct in Adolescents”, published in February 2014, takes stock of French adolescents’ addictions, warns about the risks to their health and makes proposals to the public authorities.
Experts stress the danger of early consumption. The younger the child experiences, the greater the risk of dependence and the resulting damage. Thus, at 10 or 11 years, the risk of dependence is multiplied by 2 and that of accidents related to alcohol by 5.
The damage caused by alcohol, the generation of new neurons, the ability to learn and memory are more important for girls than for boys of the same age, the study says, and are proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed.
4 – Alcohol Kills
According to a report of the World Health Organization published in May 2014, more than 200 diseases are linked to alcohol consumption. One in 20 deaths is linked to alcohol, which kills 3.3 million people each year. This is a higher mortality rate than AIDS, tuberculosis, and violence combined. In 2005, alcohol killed 2.5 million people worldwide.
Given the increase in the world’s population and the expected increase in alcohol consumption, the burden of disease attributable to alcohol could increase further if no more prevention policies are put in place.
In 2012, world consumption was equivalent to 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per person over the age of 15. A quarter of this consumption is beyond the control of the authorities
Half of all official alcohol consumption in the world is in the form of spirits, followed by beer (34.8%) and wine (8%).
While rich countries (Americas and Europe) remain the largest consumers of alcohol, consumption has increased most in recent years in India and China while it has remained stable in the countries of the Americas, Europe, and the United States. Africa.
In 2010, the largest consumers of alcohol were Russia, the countries of Eastern Europe, Portugal, followed by the majority of EU countries, Canada, Australia and Africa from the South.
According to the report, taking into account the fact that half of the world’s population has not been drinking alcohol in the past 12 months, this means that global consumption among drinkers has reached 17 liters pure alcohol, the equivalent of 45 bottles of whiskey, or 150 bottles of wine, or more than a thousand cans of beer.
5 – How Does Alcohol Affect the Body of a Teenager?
Alcohol passes into the blood through small blood vessels, through the walls of the stomach and small intestine. A few minutes after being drunk, alcohol goes from the stomach to the brain where it quickly produces its effects, slowing the activity of nerve cells.
Alcohol is also transported through the bloodstream to the liver, which removes alcohol from the blood by a process called metabolism, where it is converted to a non-toxic substance. The liver can only metabolize a certain amount at a time, leaving the excess circulating in the body. Thus, the intensity of the effect on the body is directly related to the quantity consumed.
When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, the respiratory system slows down significantly and can lead to coma or death, because oxygen no longer reaches the brain.
Alcohol affects the majority of organs: the brain is one of the most affected. Alcohol causes significant physiological damage, with multiple associated symptoms. Alcohol has several effects on neurons. The functioning of their membranes is disrupted and some enzymes do not work properly.
*** Alcohol and Brain – How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?
Alcohol is an anesthetic substance that acts as a narcotic on the cells of the brain, which has the effect of slowing the communication between the neurons. Brain cells will also work differently.
Eventually, some brain cells will also disappear, this is called “loss of brain tissue”. It is clearly observed from a daily consumption of 6 glasses of alcohol and is due to the toxicity of the alcohol that destroys the brain cells. As a result, the volume of the brain shrinks when you consume alcohol excessively for years. The volume of the brain can thus decrease by 10 to 15% among very heavy drinkers after 10 to 15 years.
Alcohol acts considerably on the frontal cortex (frontal part of the brain). It commands self-control and social behavior, as well as targeted actions, reasoning and problem-solving. Damage to the frontal cortex results in a decline in intellectual ability. Less self-control increases the risk of impulsive reactions and reduces the effect of natural brakes (eg to quell the urge to drink).
Memories do not pass from short-term memory to long-term memory either, because of, among other things, the action of alcohol on the hippocampus. These are the black-outs. The operation of memory suffers the effects of long-term consumption.
The action of alcohol on the cerebellum (small brain, located at the back of the skull) causes disorders in motor skills, coordination, and balance.
The marrow in the brainstem controls a number of autonomous functions such as breathing and heartbeat. The person can fall into a coma, or even die if this part of the brain is anesthetized by alcohol. This risk mainly concerns binge drinkers who consume large amounts of alcohol in record time.
The pituitary is a gland located in the center of the head, under the brain. The pituitary gland controls certain hormones including growth hormone. By acting on this gland, alcohol can cause growth abnormalities in young people who consume too much.
The brain develops until we are about 23 years old. It is particularly sensitive to toxic substances until this age. Therefore, drinking too young can cause irreversible damage that reduces mental capacity, memory, and self-control.
Young adolescents are even more exposed because the damage caused by excessive alcoholization will significantly disrupt the growth and development of their brains.
*** Alcohol and the Brain of Teenagers – How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain of a Teenager?
A teenager’s body does not tolerate alcohol in the same way as an adult’s.
Drinking is more harmful to teens than for adults because their brains still developing during adolescence and their young adult lives. Drinking during this critical period of growth can result in permanent damage to brain function, especially memory, motor skills (ability to move) and coordination.
Alcohol disrupts brain development. Thinking skills, planning, spatial orientation, and memory can be damaged by alcohol. Excessive consumption therefore not only has a visible effect on memory functioning but also reduces the concentration. The school results are then in free fall and the brain undergoes permanent damage.
On the other hand, since organs are more vulnerable, the risk of liver and gastric disorders is also higher.
Alcohol can also disrupt hormonal balance, which hinders bone growth. And these disturbances also affect sexual development. For example, girls may have irregular rules.
Reflexes decrease much more than adults, which increases the risk of accidents.
Self-control decreases more quickly and impulsive and aggressive behaviors appear more easily. During outings, young people who drink are more frequently victims/perpetrators than adults.
Blackouts, that is complete blanks, are also clearly more common. They occur especially after drinking in a short time a number of glasses of alcohol (five or six). These blackouts are every time very bad for the brain. The memory may suffer permanent damage if it is regular.
Drinking a lot quickly increases the risk of alcohol intoxication exponentially compared to adults. This intoxication leads to a narcotic state, which can stop breathing or heartbeats.
*** an Anxiolytic and Hypnotic Effect
Only six minutes pass between the moment the alcohol is absorbed and the moment when it begins to soak the brain. A first pleasant sensation, from the first drink. Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system: it slows down its activity, has an anxiolytic, hypnotic and sedative effect. The first action of ethanol contained in all alcoholic drinks is the release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a set of neurons that plays an important role in the reward system: pleasure, laughter but also an addiction. With the repetition of excesses, the nucleus accumbens becomes less sensitive to the effects of alcohol. To achieve the same level of satisfaction, you will have to consume more.
*** Behavioral Disorders
When a teenager has inappropriate and abusive alcohol use, their behavior may change the fickle mood, sadness, loneliness, loss of appetite, aggressive or violent behavior, delinquent behavior.
*** Sleeping Troubles
Abuse of alcohol or other psychoactive substances can also lead to sleep disturbances such as insomnia, frequent awakenings, nightmares or disruption of the sleep/wake rhythm. These disorders are the cause of feelings of fatigue, disorders of concentration, increased irritability and can be particularly troublesome, especially at the school level.
It has a negative effect on both the quality and duration of sleep and on alertness. By disrupting sleep, alcohol will torment the teenager also during the day. Victim of lack of sleep and less vigilance, it will see its performance decreased during the day.
*** Relationship Difficulties
Regular abuse can also affect the relationship of the teenager to the other and in particular, jeopardize his or her friendly relationship.
6 – How Does Alcohol Affect the Body of a Teenager?
The effects of alcohol on the body can vary considerably from one adolescent to another depending on how the body metabolizes alcohol. Other factors also come into play: the genetic factors, the personality, the context of consumption, the state of mind in which one is at the moment when one consumes.
In the short term, two types of effects can be felt according to different factors:
Physiological effects: decreased alertness, disturbed attention capacity, impaired vision, change in choice and reasoning.
Emotional and behavioral effects: exaltation, assertiveness, euphoria, or on the contrary irritability, the feeling of malaise, aggressive behavior.
The Body Imbibes
Half a beer, a wine flask, a glass of champagne or a glass of vodka-orange contain about 10 g of pure alcohol. In the stomach, this alcohol passes as it is in the blood then diffuses into all the organs. The faster the passage of alcohol in the blood, the higher the blood alcohol level, the more drunkenness is marked. The assimilation of alcohol – that is to say its complete absorption by the body – takes about an hour, a little less if one is fasting or if the drink is hot, bubble or sweet.
The Complexion Turns Red
First targets of alcohol: the vessels that irrigate the skin, especially in the face. Their dilation makes them blush and also promotes heat loss. Feeling feverish as the internal temperature drops.
The Vision Is Cloudy
A small molecule, alcohol easily passes the barrier that protects the brain. The most complex brain functions are the first to be affected. This is the case of language, of balance, but also of the visual faculties which require the coordination of the different muscles at the origin of the movements of the eyes. It is enough to have drunk 2 glasses (0.4 g of alcohol) so that the visual field narrows. At 10 glasses, we see double.
Reflexes Are Slowed Down
Alcohol disrupts information transmission and treatment in the brain. Attention, concentration, the capacity for discernment and judgment are altered. Reflexes are slowed down: the reaction time after 4 to 5 glasses (0.8 g of alcohol) is doubled compared to normal.