Studies Show Teenage Drinking Kills Brain Cells; Oh, That Explains Everything


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We always knew teens often walk a bit on the wild side, and we had the inclination to misbehave abundantly ourselves.

Now we know at least part of the reason for our wiliness.

Studies suggest that alcohol causes more damage to the developing brains of teenagers than researchers previously thought and injures them more than it does adult brains. The research also suggests that heavy teen drinking may undermine the neurological connections needed to avoid alcoholism.

"There is no doubt about it now: there are long-term cognitive consequences to excessive drinking of alcohol in adolescence, " said Aaron White, an assistant research professor in the psychiatry department at Duke University. “We definitely didn't know five or ten years ago that alcohol affected the teen brain differently. Now there's a sense of urgency. It's the same place we were in when everyone realized what a bad thing it was for pregnant women to drink alcohol. "

Alcohol also seems to do damage to the frontal areas of the adolescent brain, which are vital for controlling impulses and thinking through consequences of actions, which are abilities many addicts and alcoholics of all ages are disastrously lacking.

Fulton Crews, a neuropharmacologist at the University of North Carolina, states, “Alcohol creates disruption in parts of the brain essential for self-control, motivation and goal setting. ”

So when a teenager gets behind the wheel of the family car without permission, inhabits the wee hours without a considerate call, or otherwise drives his or her parents to drink, think if alcohol might have flowed into the equation.

There is some good news on tap. Crews noted that adult alcoholics who stop drinking can recover cognitive function in time, and, fortunately, the same may be true for quaffing teenagers.

The brain is remarkably plastic, and, given the inveterate proclivities of teens, what a fortuitous thing that is. It’s almost as if nature knew beforehand the likely content of adolescent doings. Future studies may show that the teenage brain, while more vulnerable to alcohol, may also be more resilient.

So best not to drink at all until your brain is grown but for those few who can’t resist, keep in mind, less booze means more brains. And more brains, of all things, distinguished behavior.

Tom Attea, humorist and creator of, has had six shows produced Off-Broadway and has written comedy for TV. Critics have called his writing “"delightfully funny" and “witty" with “good, genuine laughs. "


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