June 28, 2017

Don’t give them alcohol, their brains are still developing

high school girls study in corridor

The ADF advocates that people under the age of 18 years should not drink alcohol at all and should delay the take up of alcohol for as long as possible. Our reason is simple; their brains are still developing. And yet, as we have been travelling around Australia delivering alcohol and other drug seminars, we’ve found there is still a large number of parents who are not aware of these facts.

Laboratory research on animals¹ suggest that a young person’s brain is affected differently than an adult’s and that alcohol has a disruptive effect.² Drinking alcohol can damage two parts of the brain: the frontal lobe and the hippocampus.

These parts of the brain are involved in memory and emotions, and damage to them could be responsible for:

  • memory problems
  • dependence (‘addiction’)
  • inability to learn
  • depression
  • problems with verbal skills.

Alcohol stops you learning and remembering things. Regularly using alcohol slows down systems in your brain that are important for storing new information and makes it difficult for you to remember what you learn.

However at the same time, laboratory work also indicates that young people may not be as susceptible to the sedative effects of alcohol and therefore may not easily recognise that they are intoxicated. This of course is quite troubling and worrisome when we know that nearly one in five drink at risky levels where risky levels are defined by the National Alcohol guidelines at 5 or more standard drinks on any given day.

We believe in and support parents’ right to parent, but we also believe it is important that parents understand their role in their child’s development and model appropriate behaviour around alcohol.

We support secondary supply laws in every state and advocate that each state reconsider these laws in ensuring that:

  1. Secondary supply laws are implemented
  2. These laws are reviewed on a regular basis
  3. These laws include responsible serving and supervision of alcohol consumption by young people
  4. The secondary supply law is advertised widely across the state so parents are aware of it.
  1. Because of legal and ethical constraints on alcohol research in human adolescents, many studies of alcohol’s effects on the developing brain have been conducted in animal models, primarily rats and mice.
  2. Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Ph.D., and H. Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D. (2005). Alcohol’s Effects on the Adolescent Brain—What Can Be Learned From Animal Models. Alcohol Research and Health, vol.28, no.4, pp.213-221.

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