Alcohol a Two-edged Sword for Teens

The adolescent brain is more sensitive to alcohol's effects on many mental functions than the adult brain, but less sensitive to alcohol's sedative effects. So teens are more likely to continue drinking and to engage in potentially dangerous activities

Research on adolescents and alcohol shows that the teenage brain may be more sensitive to alcohol's effects on memory and other mental functions than the adult brain. However, when it comes to the sedative effects of alcohol, the opposite is true. Scott Swartzwelder, clinical professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, calls this situation a 'two-edged sword' for teenagers.

"The adolescent brain is more sensitive to the effects of alcohol on functions that serve memory and other mental activities. But it is less sensitive to the effects of alcohol on sedation - that is, alcohol makes adolescents less sleepy."

Swartzwelder says this variance causes two problems for young people. First, since they're not as sleepy, they may consume more alcohol, resulting in greater mental impairment. Second, they may be more likely to engage in activities that put them at risk, such as driving a car.

"Alcohol impairs a lot of functions that relate to driving and other kinds of physical activities, and though they're not as sleepy-feeling, they can actually be impaired in these other domains."

I'm Cabell Smith for MedMinute.