HIT Hot Topics Conference – Alcohol & the Adolescent
|May 13, 2011||Posted by Stacey under Alcohol, Awareness, Blog, Drugs and Alcohol, Harm Reduction, Hot Topics Conference 2011|
Alcohol & the Adolescent- Paul Dillon, Drug & Alcohol Research & Training, Australia
Very interesting session regarding how Alcohol affects brain development and how this should affect the messages we are giving to young people about their Alcohol use. For ease of reading I’ll summarise some of the points made.
- Female brains develop until 21, in males 23/24, maybe even up to 28!
- Critical brain growth occurs in utero, 0-3 and 10-13
- The brain grows in two stages, in growth spurts and a stage called pruning which is when neural pathways are used or discarded if they are not being. Basically if some areas of the brain aren’t used then it is ‘Use it or Lose It’ which will affect learning and behaviour.
- Teenagers have yet to develop parts of the brain called the prefrontal cortex and the frontal lobe. This undevelopment can make them more likely to behave emotionally or by their initial gut reactions.
- Alcohol affects the parts of a developing brain responsible for memory and learning as well as the formation of adult personality and behaviour
This all has obvious implications. The younger people begin drinking the more likely it is to affect brain development. Paul suggest that the 10% of a young person’s brain power can be lost which could mean the difference between passing and failing.
The sedative/depressant affect of Alcohol is less pronounced in young people due to GABA receptors. (Google it, my head hurt!) They are more likely however to experience blackouts and the associated memory loss therefore the risks are high.
In conclusion we need to remember that we should to be giving credible messages about alcohol to young people and think about, as Paul put it…
What messages are they likely to accept?