How Does Alcohol Affect the Teen Brain?

When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term – but repeated drinking can also impact it down the road, especially as their brains grow and develop.

Short-Term Consequences of Intoxication (being “drunk”):

  • An intoxicated youth has a harder time making good decisions.
  • A youth is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or risky.
  • A youth may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • A youth is less likely to recognize potential danger.
  • The likelihood a “blackout” occurs.
  • Alcohol Poisoning induced by binge drinking may occur.

Long-Term Consequences of Alcohol Use on the Developing Teen Brain:

Research shows that drinking during the teen years can interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:

  • Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
  • Increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.