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For all the attention prescription drug addiction gets, the greatest drug problem still involves “medication” that’s even easier to obtain. Two million Americans struggle with prescription drug addiction involving opiate painkillers—but over 15 million adults and 623,000 adolescents have alcohol use disorder. And despite drinking-age laws, 20.3% of 12–20-year-olds consume alcohol each month.\nFor More Info: https://www.inlanddetox.com/2018/02/09/long-term-effects-alcohol-abuse-teens-young-adults/
For all the attention prescription drug addiction gets, the greatest drug problem still involves “medication” that’s even easier to obtain. Two million Americans struggle with prescription drug addiction involving opiate painkillers—but over 15 million adults and 623,000 adolescents have alcohol use disorder. And despite drinking-age laws, 20.3% of 12–20-year-olds consume alcohol each month.
Those underage drinkers, plus the 21–25-year-old crowd whose brains are still maturing, merit special concern. The long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption do no one’s heart, stomach, liver or brain any good, but special risks are involved with teens and young adults.
It’s important to note that, while legal drinking age nearly everywhere is 21, the human brain continues to hone its natural impulse-control, organization and planning skills until about age 25. Regular intake of an intoxicating drug can interfere with this process and keep some cognitive functions from ever developing to full potential. Even three weeks after detox, youngsters diagnosed with alcohol dependence show poorer memory and spatial skills than their nondrinking peers. MRI brain scans indicate that the hippocampus, the section responsible for long-term memory and spatial navigation, rarely develops to full size in people who become problem drinkers at young ages.
When teenage impulsiveness leads to experimenting with alcohol, it can easily create a vicious circle: drinking too much leads to ongoing cognitive impairment, which leads to poor judgment, which leads to more reckless drinking. If this keeps up for long, it’s a recipe for all-out addiction that can be remedied only with full alcohol detox and permanent abstinence.
Even after successful alcohol detox, ongoing natural changes in young-adult brains and bodies continue to create increased relapse risk.
Many adolescents begin alcohol abuse early enough that not only brain development, but physical growth and hormonal development are still in progress. Drinking alcohol frequently and in heavy amounts can confuse the hormones and impair proper development of reproductive organs, bones and muscles. And even in teenagers, overweight-plus-alcohol is a high-risk combination for liver damage.
At the very least, the earlier someone starts drinking the more years they’ll likely keep it up; and the more years alcohol is consumed at problem levels, the more time it has to do silent damage to vital organs.
Drinkers who start young are seven times more likely than anyone else to be involved in alcohol-related car crashes; 8.2% of high school students admit to having driven under the influence; and 60–70% of young drivers involved in fatal DUI accidents hadn’t bothered to fasten their seat belts.
In the majority of “unprotected” or promiscuous sexual activities among college students, at least one partner is under the influence of alcohol.
Being under the influence of alcohol increases the chance of engaging in almost every form of dangerous behavior, from taking (or making) extravagant dares to starting physical fights.
If your child is over the legal age of independence (18 in California), you’ll have to express your concerns more delicately—they’re probably still carrying “always nagging me” feelings from school days. Avoid any attempt to bully them into treatment: tell them, backed by objective evidence and preferably other people they respect, what worries you and what detox program you recommend they enter. If they refuse, let them know you’ll be there when they’re ready, but won’t support their drinking habit by giving them money or covering for them in a tough spot. And get therapy and a peer support group for yourself.
And if you’re the under-25-year-old with the drinking problem—if you’re still young enough to have a legal guardian, ask them or another trusted adult for help immediately. If you’re living independently, do the responsible adult thing: research the best alcohol detox centers, arrange for time off, and check yourself in for treatment. Don’t delay. There’s one more long-term effect of addiction you should know about: the longer you wait for detox, the more of a struggle you’ll have. Get clean while you still have most of your life ahead of you!
Inland Detox is the top place for inpatient drug rehab in the Los Angeles and San Diego vicinity. If you or your teenager struggle with alcohol addiction, please call (855) 201-3822 for more information.
- Temecula, CA 92590