The Effects of Alcohol & Teenagers

Updated March 17, 2017

Alcohol problems affect adolescents nationwide. According to the website, American teenagers use alcohol more often than they use any other drug. About 50 per cent of middle school and high school students drink monthly, while 14 per cent of teens admitted to intoxication at least once in the past 12 months.


Alcohol especially affects the developing brains of teenagers. Alcohol slows down the body's functions and acts as a depressant, even blocking some of the body's messages to the brain. This causes changes to perception, movement, vision and hearing. Initial responses to small amounts of alcohol include reduced anxiety or feelings of relaxation. Continued use results in loss of coordination, slurred speech, confusion and staggering. Consuming large amounts of intoxicating beverages can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can even cause death.


Drinking also affects teenagers' emotions. A person may become very outgoing and friendly or, on the other hand, become hostile and aggressive. He may also act out of character and in ways he would not normally behave when drinking. He will tend to struggle with memory issues and lack of focus. Other emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression, may remain hidden because of excess alcohol consumption.


Statistics bear out the negative effects alcohol has on teenagers. According to the website Teen Drug Abuse, traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teens from 15 to 20 years of age. Although alcohol is not involved in all of these, the presence of alcohol significantly increases accident fatalities, especially in this age group. A study of eighth-grade girls also showed a more than three times greater incidence of suicide attempts by those who drank -- 11 per cent compared with 37 per cent.


The combination of alcohol and teens creates a number of dangerous results and risky behaviours, due in part to poor judgment on the part of adolescents when consuming alcohol. Male adolescents who drink excessively complete less schooling than those who do not drink. Suicidal thoughts increase along with alcohol consumption. Drinking, either by the perpetrator or the victim, also increases the risk of sexual assault, along with risky sexual behaviours in general. Alcohol use acts as a "gateway," or introductory drug, for the use of harder drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin.

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