How does alcohol affect the teenage brain?

When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term, and repeated drinking can also have an impact on the brain down the road, especially as it grows and develops.

Short-Term Consequences of Intoxication (being “drunk”):

  • An intoxicated person has a harder time making good decisions.  They also have impaired motor coordination.
  • A person is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or unsafe.
  • A person has a greater risk of being injured from falls or vehicle crashes.
  • A person may be more likely to engage in unsafe behavior, including drinking and driving, unsafe sexual behavior (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • A person is less likely to recognize potential danger.

Long-Term Consequences as the Teen Brain Develops:

  • Research suggests that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:
    • Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
    • Increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life.