The consequences of drinking alcohol since you are young for the brain

Alcohol consumption is never good, even in very small amounts or sporadically. This legal drug can cause severe problems to many of the organs of the human body, especially the liver and brain. The most worrying thing is the data that they show on the consumption that occurs among young people: in Spain, according to the Survey on the use of Drugs in Secondary Education carried out in 2016, 76.9% of young people between 14 and 18 years old admit to having drunk at some point in their life. In the last 30 days, 21.8% have gotten drunk and 31.7% have drank five or more glasses, glasses or canes of alcohol in a period of approximately two hours.

Starting to drink from an early age is very dangerous, especially in adolescence, which is the stage of physical and mental development. In addition, in this vital time in many cases the use of alcohol is excessive in a short period of time, as we can see in the university hazing and, in the same way, it can be consumed due to social pressure. Another alarming data, released by the Alcohol and Society Foundation (FAS), reveals that 48% of minors who drink do so with the knowledge of their parents.

Excessive alcohol use can affect a young person's memory and ability to process and transmit information

The worst is if the habit is acquired and finally the fact of having fun is related to the consumption of alcohol. At the end of the day, it is a very social drug and to which there is very easy access, whether in a bar or a supermarket. Hence the danger of developing the habit of meeting friends and drinking when young. The latest research suggests that the damage it does to the brain is critical. Andy Spickard, Emeritus professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical School, he has written a recent article in 'Psychology Today' in which he analyzes the latest published studies on the risk posed by continued alcohol consumption from the adolescent stage.

An ever-changing brain

"When I started in medicine, it was thought that the developmental stages of childhood is the most critical period for brain development," explains the doctor. "Today we know that development continues into adulthood, and that young people in between 15 and 25 years experience a rapid and extensive remodeling of their minds, more than at any other stage except childhood. "

Teen drinkers in America are five times more likely to drop out of school than nondrinkers

In what specific ways does this substance affect the neuronal tissue of young people? "Excessive alcohol consumption it can affect memory and a young person's ability to process and transmit information ", Spickard advises. "And if it is frequent, which is the norm for many adolescents and adults, it can cause long-term damage to the brain's decision-making capacity as well as attention and organization or impulse control." .

"Some research also suggests that binge drinking at any age can reduce the size of the hippocampus, an area of ​​the brain that plays a key role in short- and long-term memory," says the doctor. "This damage can increase with fainting spells or memory loss." Another very serious and striking consequence is that, as Spickard acknowledges, it can also affect the brain's ability to communicate with itself, a task relegated to neurotransmitters. Ethanol alters the content of the messages they send and slows down the speed at which they are transmitted. "This malfunction interferes with the ability to learn, one of the most important tasks of adolescence," says the expert.

"Teen drinkers in America are five times more likely to drop out of school than nondrinkers," Spickard emphasizes. This also condemns them not to function so well in society or in sports activities. Similarly, it greatly delays the academic graduation period. Another aspect that the doctor highlights is the lack of brain plasticity, which is defined as "the ability of our neuronal cells to respond to a change abroad"This makes the brain vulnerable to long-term injuries that can be permanent." But plasticity also allows the brain to repair itself, "observes the doctor." This self-healing quality allows those who once abused of this substance will recover in a few years, in the event that they stop consuming completely ".

The consumption of alcohol involves a serious problem, since as we said, it is a social drug that is associated with fun and whose risks are enormous. We must influence prevention and education from an early age so that the adolescent is aware of the dangers to which he is exposed. And, in any case, lead by example: if the young person sees that their parents do not drink, lead a healthy life and are good with themselves, they will surely want to resemble themselves and not fall into bad behaviors that will lead to serious conflicts in the future.