Teens, and increasingly younger children, often think drinking alcohol will make them cool, popular, and accepted. However, the chemical properties are detrimental to developing brains, can lead to alcohol poisoning, and immediate death. Underage drinking can cause permanent brain damage, and studies have linked it to lower academics, drinking-related accidents, suicidal thoughts and actions, and a higher risk of long term dependence. One study found that people who started drinking before age 15 were 4 times likely to develop a strong alcohol dependence and addiction later in life.
Underage drinking severely impacts emotional development by increasing activity of the neurotransmitters known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which blocks stress signals to the brain. This effect results in a numbing sensation and high levels of depression and anxiety. Alcohol releases an overload of dopamine, a natural pleasure inducing chemical. This “feel good” vibe from drinking will quickly fade away and trigger a depression phase in young minds without it. Many teens may try to drink as a way to cope with depression without realizing it actually worsens psychological disorder long term. Habitual drinking in teens is linked to alarming levels of suicide. According to a report by John Hopkins University, youth who are heavy drinkers are about 26% more likely to commit self-harm and attempt suicide.
Alcohol, especially in developing minds, damages the cerebral cortex, resulting in impaired judgment. This condition can lead to teen believing themselves more confident and making risky decisions, including drinking and driving. In fact, 77% of youth have reported driving while under the influence, resulting in accidents and vehicular manslaughter. Long term effects of underage drinking can also lead to short term memory loss.
Other risky behaviors from drinking include unsafe and illicit sexual activity. Underage drinking is associated with wild college parties and sexual assault and rape. Often young females are taken advantage of when the effects of drinking numb their senses. With their judgment clouded, young men can misinterpret body language and cues to fit the party peer pressures. One study from the National Institutes of Health found 67% of girls reported drinking related sexual harassment and 48% any form of sexual harassment, including unwanted hugs, kisses, and sexual touches. A similar study found that 49% of all underage drinking related sexual assault victims required immediate emergency treatment. Ultimately, these cases can lead to rape, unwanted pregnancies, and STDs.
Rehab centers also may provide necessary counseling and group therapy to help cope with emotional and spiritual recovery. Different seminars and trainings will equip you with life skills to repair relationships, find work again, and fully integrate back into your old life. A typical rehab center program may last up to a month. It’s vital afterward to continue managing recovery with close accountability with loved ones. You may find it helpful to attend weekly support groups. In some cases of chronic abuse, you may need to check into a residential treatment center. This step may be best if you don’t have a close net of support from loved ones.