Teens drink for a variety of reasons. Some teens want to experience new things. Others feel pressured into drinking by peers. And some are looking for a way to cope with stress or other problems. Unfortunately, drinking will only make any problems a person has already worse, not better.
When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-termâ€“ but repeated drinking can also impact it down the road, especially as their brains grow and develop.
Short-Term Consequences of Intoxication (being â€œdrunkâ€):
Long-Term Consequences as the Teen Brain Develops:
People who drink are affected even before they show signs of being drunk, especially when it comes to decision-making abilities.
At first, alcohol causes people to feel upbeat and excited. But this is temporary and they shouldnâ€™t be fooled.
If drinking continues, the effects on the bodyâ€”and the potential risksâ€”multiply. Hereâ€™s what can happen:
Itâ€™s easy to misjudge how long alcoholâ€™s effects last. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours.
There are increased risks and a range of negative consequences related to underage drinking. It is dangerous because it:
Causes many deaths.
On average, alcohol plays a role in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 every year. These deaths include:
Causes many injuries.
Drinking alcohol can cause young people to have accidents and get hurt. In 2011 alone, about 188,000 people under age 21 visited an emergency room for injuries related to drinking alcohol.
Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault.
Young people under age 21 who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
Can lead to other problems.
Drinking can cause teens to have trouble in school or with the law. Teens who drink are more likely to use other drugs than teens who donâ€™t.
Can lead to developing an alcohol use disorder.
Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) are medical conditions that doctors diagnose when someoneâ€™s drinking causes them distress or harm. In 2014 about 679,000 young people ages 12-17 had an AUD. Even more important, the younger the use of alcohol the more likely one is to develop an AUD later in life.
Increases the risk of cancer.
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing various cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in a personâ€™s bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support systemsâ€”such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature controlâ€”begin to shut down.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call 911 and get medical help immediately. Cold showers, hot coffee, or walking will NOT reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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