Real Teens Ask: Got Alcohol on the Brain?

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Alcohol on the Brain

As many of you know, the brain is still well under way in the development process through the teen years into your 20’s. Your decisions today can affect the way your brain develops. Ever wondered how? “Warda” from Wantagh Middle School in New York asks:

"How can alcohol affect the development of the brain?" 

The teen years are an important time for brain development. The thinking, memory, and feeling parts are all changing during this time, and alcohol can interfere with these important changes and actually shrink the thinking and memory parts.

Research shows that drinking lots of alcohol when you’re a teen can make an area of the brain called the frontal lobes smaller. The frontal lobes help us make decisions, think about things, and pay attention. Teens who drink a lot have problems in these areas.

Alcohol also can shrink the hippocampus, the brain area that helps with learning and memory. For weeks and months after a teen stops drinking heavily, these parts of the brain still struggle to work correctly. Drinking at a young age also makes alcoholism more likely later in life.

So the decision to drink when you’re still a teen could have lots of negative effects on brain development over time. So be kind to your brain and think before you drink.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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