How Alcohol Effects The Adolescent Brain

How Alcohol Effects The Adolescent Brain

Alcohol's Harmful Effects on The Adolescent Brain 

Alcohol is one of the most physically and psychologically harmful substances a human being could possibly choose to put into their body. But while alcohol is potentially harmful to anyone whom may consume it, it is significantly more harmful to teenage drinkers, particularly when it comes to their still-developing adolescent brain. 

Needless to say, when it comes to alcohol's harmful effects on the adolescent brain, consequences may be severe and last far beyond teenage years - perhaps even life-long. 

During the crucial developmental period of adolescence, brain development undergoes dramatic physiological and structural changes as well as a crucial re-wiring of the neurons. These changes can bring about critical affects to functionalities such as sexuality, emotional maturity, and impulsive judgment.  

And to add even more complex factors into the mix, not all sections of the teenage brain mature at the same time. For example, the limbic sections of the brain mature before the frontal lobes. This can be deeply problematic when you consider the fact that the limbic areas regulate complex emotions, while the frontal lobe's functionality regulates a teen's impulse control. 

In other words, the teenage brain inherently has a biological difficulty with using problem-solving or impulse control when navigating intense emotions such as depression, anxiety, or even feelings of intense elation. Of course, this mismatched development in the brain, in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol, can easily result in a teenage boy or girl acting on impulsivity and implement rash decision-making that may end in temporarily disregarded, albeit long-term, consequences.


The WinGate Difference...

Unlike most wilderness-based treatment programs, Wingate does not use level systems, group consequences, or any other behavior-modification techniques. That’s because these techniques do not create lasting change. Instead, Wingate seeks the kind of internally motivated change that relies upon a profound therapeutic alliance between the client and the therapeutic team. This kind of alliance requires a staff that is creative, caring, authentically engaged, and exhaustively trained. Most importantly, though, it requires a deep and genuine respect for our clients.

Teen Drinking is Known to Cause Irreversible Brain Damage

While responsible, full-grown adults can 'kick a few back' every now and then without suffering from anything worse than an early morning to mid-afternoon hangover, the same cannot be said about teenage drinkers who are at much greater risk of suffering from significantly more dangerous and long-lasting and even life-altering consequences. 

To further illustrate this point, let's look to a recent study led by neuroscientist Susan Tapert of the University of California, San Diego. 

The study consisted of comparing brain scans of teens who were habitual drinkers with teens who never had drunk alcohol at all. The doctor's alarming study was as simple as her team's results were frightfully fascinating. 

Through her research, Dr. Tampert, along with her research team, concluded that teenage drinking led to the damaging of nerve tissue within their brain's structure, much more so than that of a fully-developed, adult brain. What's more, the San Diego research team also found that male and female adolescent brains' are affected in different ways. For teenage boys, alcohol consumption adversely affected their attention spans, while girls' ability to comprehend and interpret visual information was negatively affected. 

"First of all, the adolescent brain is still undergoing several maturational processes that render it more vulnerable to some of the effects of substances," Tapert says.
The final verdict of Dr. Tampert's research team was this: "Key areas of the teenage brain are still under 'construction.' that developing teenage brains can be adversely, and permanently damaged from the harmful effects of alcohol."

Why Choose Wilderness Therapy?

Wilderness therapy also builds self-efficacy. Through individual and group task accomplishment, troubled teens learn that they are not victims of life but active participants in the choices and future they create. From finally learning how to make a fire to finishing a hike they never thought they could, the young teen client grows in the belief that she can change, learn, and grow.

How Alcohol Affects the Adolescent Brain 

In order to understand how alcohol affects the brain, you first need to understand what alcohol is from the brain's perspective, and how it differs from other harmful substances.

Unlike stimulants, such as caffeine, amphetamines, cocaine etc., alcohol is what experts refer to as, a central nervous depressant. However, alcohol sometimes gives the user the affects of a stimulant, mainly because it depresses the section of the brain's functionality that is in charge of controlling inhibitions. 

Below is a detailed report of how alcohol affects different portions of the brain: 

Central Nervous System - the central nervous system is one of the brain's most important sections in terms of functionality. The central nervous system is in charge of a person's movement, thought patterns, as well as their ability to speak. This portion of the brain works by sending signals from the brain to the various movable body parts, thus allowing them to move responsively. 

  • Alcoholic Affects: Alcohol slows down the central nervous system, making all movements, as well as thought and speech patterns much slower. 

Cerebral Cortex - This portion of the brain is responsible for regulating a person's senses (touch, smell, taste, hear, see). 

  • Alcoholic Affects: As a depressant, alcohol slows down the cerebral cortex which, in turn, numbs all five senses while inebriated.  

Frontal Lobes - As we've discussed, this portion of the brain is responsible for decision making and impulse control ability. 

  • Alcoholic Affects - While intoxicated, a person's frontal lobes are drastically limited, making it much more difficult for an individual to control their impulses. This, of course, is especially problematic when it comes to alcohol consumption in teenage boys and girls, who biologically have a difficult time controlling their emotions and impulsivity as is. 

Hippocampus - This section of the brain is responsible for developing and retaining memories. 

  • Alcoholic Affects: Alcohol severely affects the brain's hippocampus, and therefore, its ability to create memories. The severity of memory loss varies from person to person. However, for teenage boys and girls, the effects are far more drastic than that of a fully developed brain. Most teenage drinker's hippocampus will be profoundly affected after only one or two drinks. This is deeply troublesome for teens who achieve a "blackout" after consuming just a few alcoholic beverages. During a blackout, a teen will typically act on behaviors of which they will not remember the following day, which, at times, result in life-long consequences. 

Cerebellum - This section of the brain is responsible for coordination, motor functions, and self-awareness. 

  • Alcoholic Affects: Alcohol, when consumed to excess, will drastically hinder a person's motor skills. Countless teens have died in car accidents due to this portion of their brain being negatively affected after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Hypothalamus - This part of the brain regulates basic function such as blood pressure, temperature, hunger, thirst, and heart rate. 

  • Alcoholic Affects: Excessive consumption of alcohol causes all the functions controlled by the hypothalamus (heart rate, thirst, hunger, blood pressure, urge to urinate etc.) to rise. In severe cases, alcohol can elevate these functions to fatally high levels - especially in teens. 

Medulla - This portion of the brain is in charge of controlling automatic actions, such as an individual's heart beat. In addition to controlling the basic and most important functions of the heart, the medulla is also responsible for regulating a person's body temperature. 

  • Alcoholic Affects: The more alcohol a person consumes, the more difficult it is for their medulla to function appropriately. Excessive drinking cools body temperatures below levels of normalcy and can result in fatal consequences, especially if the time of inebriation takes place during the colder months of the year. 

Are You a Concerned Parent of a Troubled Teen Who Frequently Abuses Alcohol? If So, We Can Help! 

Of course, it is almost common sense for parents to turn to some form of residential treatment when raising an addicted, out of control, teenage child. However, it's important for parents to understand that not all forms of residential treatment are created equal.

In fact, sending your teenage son or daughter to the 'wrong' residential treatment can easily make matters worse for you and your child. Not to mention, your angst-ridden teen will most likely lose trust for you after they spend several months in a substandard treatment program that wasn't designed to meet their therapeutic needs.

Needless to say, when it comes to selecting a treatment center for your teen, quality is everything. 

Wingate Wilderness Therapy Boasts a Long History of Saving the Lives of Troubled teens

Wingate Wilderness is a residential treatment program whose expertise in saving the lives of children, along with its comprehensive individualized treatment methods, and stellar track record, speak for themselves. But don't take our word for it, see what grateful parents had to say about our program by reading their personal testimonials!  

A Wilderness Residential Program With Quality You Can Depend on! 

What separates Wingate from many other treatment centers begins with our approach to promoting healing from within suffering, troubled teens. You see, most residential treatment programs rely heavily on behavior modification techniques that have been proven to be ineffectively cruel and are famous for causing additional adverse effects within troubled teen's psyche rather than helping them overcome existing issues by therapeutic means. 

Fortunately, Wingate does not subscribe to archaic and draconian treatment methods like much of our competition, who typically implement deeply flawed behavior modification techniques.

Instead of applying the outdated and ineffectual treatment methods of old, like most programs do, our expert, and therapeutically certified staff dedicatedly form an alliance with each and every student they serve.

It is our firm belief that, by establishing trust and powerful bonds with our campers, our staff is further able to help teens heal from their underlying, often well-hidden, psychological issues that have contributed to their negative behavioral patterns. This is especially the case when it comes to the matter of teenage addiction, which is often used by teens as a form of self-medication to cope with their aforementioned underlying, psychological problems. 

The main benefit of our unique, relationship-based methods of treatment provides our staff with a greater chance of making a positive impact in the life of a troubled, albeit, psychologically and spiritually suffering teenage boy or girl who is need of therapeutically healing, professional assistance.

The bottom line: Our program successfully assists teens in making significant, life-long changes for the better. 

WinGate also works closely with families to offer the support they need in securing the success and overall wellness for their teen's future.

 In addition to supplying teen's with undeniably impactful therapeutic treatment, the staff at WinGate Wilderness Therapy also dedicate themselves to parental, 24-hour convenience. Additionally, Wingate Wilderness' staff conduct frequent conference calls between parents and campers and are available to offer online support to families wherever and whenever they might be in need of our assistance. For Immediate Assistance Call Us Today at 1-800-560-1599.