The Effects of Alcohol
Drinking alcohol can harm physical and mental development, particularly in adolescence and early adulthood. It is recommended that youth delay drinking alcohol for as long as possible, at least until the legal drinking age.
Just like the body, the human brain is still developing throughout adolescence and early adulthood. The frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to mature and is involved in planning, strategizing, organizing, impulse control, concentration, and attention.
Drinking alcohol while the brain is maturing can have negative effects on the brain’s development. In addition to this risk, puberty causes neurochemical and hormonal changes that make adolescents more likely to engage in risky behaviour and seek thrilling experiences. Starting to drink at the time when strategy and planning skills are still underdeveloped and the desire for thrills is high can have harmful effects on a youth’s health and safety.
Youth might not be familiar with the effects of alcohol, putting them at risk for dangers such as injury and alcohol poisoning. Most young people do not drink in moderation on a regular basis, but rather alternate between periods of abstinence and binge drinking. Drinking alcohol can lead youth to make bad decisions, such as driving after drinking or getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Drinking is also related to increased chances of suicide, homicide, drowning or other injury-related harm, and experiencing or committing physical or sexual assault because alcohol impairs judgement, reasoning, and the ability to evaluate risk.
Recent trends suggest that some youth are combining alcohol with other drugs or caffeinated energy drinks. These substances can interact to increase risky behaviours and can cause dangerous and unpredictable effects in the body, including alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, and death. Additionally, like adults, youth who regularly consume alcohol above the low-risk drinking guidelines increase their risk of developing chronic illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart, and liver disease.
Information adapted from The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.