High School and College are some of the most enjoyed and cherished times an individual may have, a place where lifelong friendships are made and a place where people feel belonging and comfort. But these years in an individuals life are also the years in which they are first exposed to alcohol and most likely the time they consume the most alcohol in their life. These years are also very crucial for cerebral development, as the brain is nearing the end of its developmental phase and is still susceptible to many inhibiting factors that may limit its growth and complete development; one of which is alcohol.
What is Alcohol exactly?
Alcohol is an organic compound where the hydroxyl functional group is bound to a saturated carbon atom. Although it is an organic compound it is defined and classified as a depressant drug; meaning that it slows down bodily functions, reflexes and reaction time along with causing slurred speech and loss of visual perceptions and motor functions of the body.
How does it affect the body?
After the consumption of an Alcoholic beverage the liquid is almost instantly absorbed into the bodies bloodstream through blood vessels and capillaries in the stomach and small intestine. From there it directly travels to the brain and instantaneously starts slowing down nerve cell functions. This absorption and slowing down of bodily functions causes the desired relaxed and lethargic effect (being drunk). Not only does alcohol affect nerve cells but also the respiratory system. When the Blood Alcohol concentration reaches a certain level in the body the respiratory system slows down and can lead to a coma or even death, as the brain is not receiving an adequate amount of oxygen.
Alcohol’s effect on the Teenager
Alcohol affects many people differently, likewise, it affects adults and teenagers differently as well. Since Alcohol directly affects the brain it can do more damage to a developing teenage brain than a developed adult brain and can leave long lasting impacts, since the brain may get inhibited during its developmental cycle. Young drinkers usually only drink socially and on special occasions, but this early exposure to alcohol can be enough to make them to trigger addiction. As a study showed that “young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21”. And this early dependence on alcohol can be their method of choice for coping, when things in their life are in disarray or they’re going through tough times. This leads them to use alcohol to try and forget their problems.
Other Health Concerns
Not only does alcohol affect cerebral development it also affects other major organs in the body. One of the organs that gets damaged the most due to alcohol is the Liver. Long term, alcohol abuse and heavy usage at a young age can cause cirrhosis; which is the degeneration of liver cells, inflammation and thickening/hardening of tissue. Alcohol consumption can damage the liver in two different ways: Oxidative Stress and Build up of toxins in gut bacteria. When the liver tries to break down alcohol, the chemical reaction instigated by this process can damage and cause severe harm to the liver cells resulting in Oxidative Stress. Alcohol can also damage the intestine and allow toxins from the intestine leak into the liver and cause scarring and inflammation.
What can you do?
Its really easy to tell teens to just stop drinking, but its not so easy for some people to just stop, as they may already have a dependence on alcohol or they may drink to feel included in their friend group, and if they stop drinking they may not feel accepted. One simple way to minimize damage is to not binge drink, and try to consume alcohol in small quantities and control the desire for more. If this is not possible, there are many organizations that provide free help and consultation on making decisions regarding alcohol. Alcoholism is a major health issue concerning average Americans, as it ruins lives and can tear families apart.