Adolescence is a time when the brain and body go through many major changes, as they do not develop fully until the mid-20s. Studies show that the areas of the brain that control decision-making, judgment, impulse control, planning, memory, and motor coordination develop during adolescence. The regular use of alcohol and other drugs can interfere with this process and can lead to irreparable, life-long brain damage and intellectual impairment. Frequent drinking can also cause damage to the body’s major organs and drastically increase the risk of alcohol abuse and addiction.
Breathing and Heart Irregularities
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. If used in small amounts on an irregular basis, the effects of alcohol are generally mild. As alcohol works to depress brain activity more and more with each drink, certain areas of the brain are affected, which leads to a decline in functioning. Part of the brain stem referred to as the medulla oblongata controls basic functions, including cardiac and respiratory system regulation. When the medulla oblongata is depressed due to excessive alcohol consumption, an individual’s heart rate and blood pressure can drop to dangerous levels and breathing declines.
- Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health
- Examples of Alcohol’s Effect on Organ Function
- Alcohol May Raise Risk of Irregular Heart Rhythm
- Underage Drinking’s Real Dangers
- Alcohol and Heart Disease
Brain, Heart, and Liver Damage
Drinking too much can take a serious toll on your health and well-being. Alcohol can interfere with brain communication pathways, affecting the way the brain works and looks. These disruptions in brain activity can make it difficult to think clearly and move smoothly, as coordination is impaired. Drinking frequently over an extended period of time can also affect the heart. Cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscle), stroke, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), and high blood pressure are all serious risks. Heavy drinking can also wreak havoc on the liver, causing inflammation and other problems. Individuals who drink frequently are at risk for steatosis (fatty liver), fibrosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
- Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment
- Drinking Alcohol Damages Teenagers’ Brains
- Alcohol and Heart Disease
- Drinking and Your Health
- Alcohol and Your Liver
Poor Logic and Reasoning Skills
Alcohol can have almost immediate effects on the brain and body, and it doesn’t take much to feel these effects. Drinking only one to two alcoholic beverages can cause impaired memory, blurred vision, and slowed reaction time. It takes only two to four drinks to reach the legal limit for blood alcohol content. When the blood alcohol level reaches 0.06 percent, reaction time, judgment, logic, and reasoning skills become impaired. When blood alcohol levels reach 0.09 percent, hearing, vision, and balance are all greatly affected. Alcohol can also alter emotions, making it more difficult to concentrate and stay in control of your environment.
- The Teen Brain and Developing Body
- Think Underage Drinking Doesn’t Affect a Teen’s Brain? Think Again [PDF]
- Alcohol and the Developing Brain
- Teen Drinking May Cause Irreversible Brain Damage
Altered or Exaggerated Mood
Alcohol can quickly alter and exaggerate moods, making an individual feel sad, depressed, angry, excited, happy, or a combination of intense emotions. Alcohol can also be used to express, mask or avoid feelings. The effects of alcohol on mood are often unpredictable. An individual can be in a particular mood one moment, and after a few drinks, their mood can completely change. Alcohol affects the neurons in the brain and the way that these neurons respond to chemicals in the brain, often resulting in a change of mood and behavior. The mood that you were in before you started drinking can also have an impact on your mood and behavior while drinking.
Increased Risk of Alcohol Addiction
In a social situation, it’s not always easy to see when you’ve crossed the line from moderate drinking to a drinking problem. Alcohol abuse and addiction can gradually build if the signs and symptoms are not promptly recognized. Alcohol addiction is caused by various factors, including genetics, your emotional health, and your social environment. Individuals who suffer from mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, are at a higher risk of alcohol abuse. It’s important to understand that if drinking is causing problems in your life, you may have a drinking problem.
- Alcohol Use and Health
- Signs and Symptoms
- Untreated Addiction and Risky Use
- Health Consequences of Excess Drinking