Alcohol and the Teen Brain

September 10, 2014

The teen brain goes through a significant "wiring" period from the ages of 12-24.  Research shows that alcohol use can harm this "wiring".



Alcohol acts like a computer virus in a teen brain that:

• Slows or shuts down brain activity

• Damages neuro-connections

• Negatively alters the brain’s pleasure-reward circuitry

• Decreases the ability to learn

• Hinders brain wiring that a teen needs to become a responsible, thoughtful adult.


SPECT images have shown that alcohol use affects the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.






How to talk to your teen about alcohol:


Develop open and trusting communication. Open communication is your best form of protection when it comes to teen parenting.


  • Encourage conversation. Encourage your child to talk about whatever interests him or her.


  • Listen attentively, without interruption.  Avoid interruptions like electronics, other siblings, etc.  Maintain eye contact and use reflective listening skills.


  • Don’t judge.  Be the student and let your teen be the teacher.  Give your child a chance to teach you something new.


  • Ask open-ended questions. Encourage your teen to tell you how he or she thinks and feels about the issue you’re discussing. Avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.


  • Control your emotions. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger. Instead, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.


  • Don’t lecture.  Make conversation a positive experience. If you show respect for your child’s viewpoint, he or she will be more likely to listen to and respect yours.


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