Adolescence marks a period of discovery in a person’s life. This often includes the first nights out, and particularly the first experiences of alcohol. Young people are often unaware that alcohol consumption can have significant effects on their health, especially on their brains.
Binge Drinking: a dangerous behaviour that is on the rise in young people
Binge drinking in young people consists of getting drunk as quickly as possible. It usually involves four or more alcoholic drinks in less than two hours for a girl, or five drinks for a boy, but the quantities can be much greater.
Without realising it, young people who are drinking in this manner are causing irreversible damage to their brains.
Brain development in adolescents and young adults
The human brain continues to develop until the age of around 23 or 24. Describing adolescence as a period of change and transition is thus even more accurate when it comes to the brain. In fact, adolescents’ brains, like the rest of their bodies, are not fully developed, and are undergoing major transformations during this period of their lives.
The impact of alcohol on the brain
In the short term, alcohol impacts directly on the brain, with varying effects on behaviour, depending on the quantity imbibed:
- For blood alcohol levels less than or equal to 0.5 g/l: alcohol has a stimulant effect which is accompanied by disinhibition. Cognitive tasks are executed faster and feel easier, but with a higher level of error.
- Above 0.5 g/l, alcohol has a sedative effect and disrupts motor functions (the loss of balance, and poor motor coordination).
Apart from the immediate effects of inebriation, the impact of alcohol on the adolescent brain can have numerous consequences: reduction in the ability to learn and reduction in long term memory, increased impulsivity, an effect on emotional learning, anxiety and mood, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an increase in the risk of dependency.
Alcohol blocks the creation of neurons in the brain. A common short term consequence of excessive alcohol consumption is a sudden drop in school test results.
Obviously, alcohol affects not only the brain, but the entire human body. According to a study carried out by the French health board, 10% of adults have problems with alcohol, which cause over 200 various illnesses and conditions: liver problems, heart problems, neurological problems, cancer, etc. Not to mention the fact that it is a very significant cause of mortality.