The facts you should know
Understanding alcohol’s effects on the brain is important to make safe decisions. Preteens and teenagers drinking alcohol leads to a loss of coordination, poor judgment, slowed reflexes, distorted vision, memory lapses, and even blackouts.
The outer surface of the brain, the cerebral cortex, works with information from your senses.
- Your inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol’s depressing effect. A small amount may make you feel relaxed and confident, but before long you’re likely to talk too much, act silly and stupid, or have impaired judgment.
- Your cerebral cortex performs more slowly.
- Your vision may get blurry, you may slur your words, and you could have decreased hearing and trouble smelling and tasting.
The brain’s frontal lobes are important for planning, forming ideas, making decisions, and using self-control. Drinking alcohol over a long period of time can damage the frontal lobes forever.
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- You may find it hard to control your emotions and urges.
- You may become violent or act without thinking.
Your memories are made in the hippocampus. A damaged hippocampus makes it harder to learn and hold on to knowledge.
- You may have trouble remembering something you just learned (e.g. a name or phone number). This can happen after just one or two drinks.
- You could experience a blackout– not being able to remember entire events, such as what you did last night — from drinking a lot of alcohol quickly.
The cerebellum is important for coordination, thinking, and being aware.
- Your hands may be so shaky that you can’t touch or grab things normally.
- You may lose your balance and fall.
- You may not know where you are.
The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain that does an amazing number of your body’s housekeeping chores. Alcohol upsets the hypothalamus’s work.
- Blood pressure, hunger, thirst, and the urge to urinate increase.
- Body temperature and heart rate decrease.
The medulla is your body’s automatic pilot. it keeps your heart beating, lets you breate without thinking about it, and keeps your body at the right temperature. People sometimes drink alcohol in an effort to keep warm. Drinking alcohol can seem like it makes you warmer, but alcohol actually chills the body. Drinking a lot of alcohol outdoors in cold weather can cause your body temperature to fall below normal. This dangerous condition is called hypothermia.
- Breathing and heart rate slow.
- Your body temperature lowers.
- Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short time could shut down the medulla. You could go into a coma.
How can I say no to alcohol?
It’s easier to refuse than you think. Try: “No thanks,” “I don’t drink,” or “I’m not interested.” Remember that the majority of teens don’t drink alcohol. You’re in good company when you’re one of them.