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Alcohol and the Teenage Brain

Alcohol use has both short-term and long-term consequences on the brain, especially as it grows and develops, which occurs until about the age of 25.1

Short-Term Consequences Include:

  • Reduced inhibitions and impaired ability to make good decisions1
  • Decreased awareness of inappropriate and/or risky behavior1
  • Increased likelihood of participating in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior1
  • Decreased ability to recognize potential danger and dangerous situations1

Long-Term Consequences Include:

  • Negative effects on information processing and learning1
  • increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is diagnosed by a medical professional when someone's drinking causes them distress or harm1


Alcohol and the Body

In addition to effects on the brain, alcohol effects the body in many ways. Drinking leads to a loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, making even normal activities dangerous.1 As alcohol travels through your bloodstream it causes physical damage to your brain, stomach, liver, kidneys, and muscles.2 Excessive drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning and even death, when there is so much alcohol in a person's bloodstream that the areas of their brain that control basic life-support systems begin to shut down.1 If someone drinks to much, they will eventually lose consciousness and reflexes such as gagging and breathing can be suppressed, making it much more likely that someone could choke or stop breathing completely.Once in your system, alcohol continues to enter the bloodstream long after the last drink has been consumed, making it easy to misjudge how long these effects will last.

Each year approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking.2 This number is comprised of about 1,900 deaths from car accidents, 1,600 homicides, 300 suicides, and hundreds of deaths due to accidents such as burns, falls, and drownings.2

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1. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Overview of Alcohol Consumption.