Meet the Teen Brain:

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The legal drinking is 21 for a reason...it's based on science!

A teen brain is like a fast car with bad brakes! It’s capable of learning and doing things really quickly, but the parts that control decision making and judgment are not completely developed. Ever wonder why you have to tell them to clean their room a dozen times or why their moods can swing so unexpectedly? Much of this has to do with their rapidly developing brains! Here are some facts about the teen brain and the effects alcohol can have on it:

  • The teen brain is still "under construction."

The prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area used in critical thinking, is still developing until the mid 20s. 

  • The still-developing brain causes teens to take more risks.

Because the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, teens rely more on the limbic system for decision-making. This area of the brain is linked more to emotions rather than critical thinking. Because of this, teens tend to make decisions based on instant gratification and reward, which can lead to more risk-taking.

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The teen brain is still developing until the mid 20s. Underage drinking can impair brain development.

  • Teens are at higher risk of binge drinking.

Teens are are more prone to binge drinking (drinking more than 4-5 drinks in a few hours) because they may lack the ability to judge when to stop.

  • Teens are at higher risk of addiction.

Studies have shown that addiction is linked to dopamine, a chemical that sends pleasure signals in the brain. The limbic system of the brain is especially sensitive to dopamine, which may make teens crave drugs more strongly than adults.

  • Alcohol use during the teen years can cause lasting brain changes.

Drinking during the teen years can cause brain changes that can last into adulthood. As the brain is developing, pathways between neurons called synapses are strengthened. Exposure to alcohol and drugs during this development can affect how these pathways are organized, which can lead to problems with attention, memory and problem solving.