Alcohol and the Teen Brain

In a time when alcohol is seen as “a rite of passage,” it is important to understand the damage than alcohol can do to the adolescent brain. In short, the brain goes through change during adolescence (ages 12 to 21) and alcohol can seriously damage its long- and short-term growth processes. In fact, it is common for youth who drink to have a significant reduction in learning and memory. Teen users are most susceptible to damaging two key brain areas that are undergoing dramatic change in adolescence—the hippocampus and the prefrontal area, which control memory, learning, adult personality and behavior.

Isn’t Underage Drinking Illegal?

Yes, but there are gaps in the current laws. Currently, the youth can be charged but the adult cannot be held accountable, even if the adult actively allowed the underage drinking party.

Social Host Accountability

To fill in the gaps, social hosts should be held accountable if they know or allow underage drinking to occur on property that they own, lease, or otherwise control. Furthermore, social hosts should not have to be present on the property in order to be held accountable.

Alcohol and the Teen Brain: A Discussion

Why Aren’t Current Laws Enough?
  • “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor” (O.C.G.A. 16-12-1) is when a person causes or encourages a minor to commit a delinquent act (like drinking alcohol). Unless it can be proven that the adult directly caused the underage drinking, the adult is not liable. Also, this statute only covers youth under 17.
  • A person commits the offense of “Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor” (O.C.G.A. 3-3-23) when he or she furnishes, causes to be furnished, or permits any person in their employ to furnish alcohol to a minor. Unless the adult directly gives to said minor, he or she is not liable.
  • The “reckless conduct statute” (O.C.G.A. 16-5-60a) only applies to someone who causes bodily harm or endangers the safety of another person. Simply allowing an underage drinking party does not apply.
Statistics Don’t Lie
  • Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are FIVE TIMES more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after the age of 21
  • Over the past decade, about 35 states have passed “social host” laws. Currently all contiguous state to Georgia (AL, FL, MS, SC & TN) have such laws. Research reports social host laws, in general, as among the most effective forms of public policy in reducing binge drinking and drinking and driving.
  1. Source: CDC (
  2. Source: UDETC (
  3. Source: AMA (

In March 2016, Center Point sponsored a conference featuring Dr. Merrill Norton, Pharm.D., D.Ph., ICCDP-D, Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. Not only does Dr. Norton explain how alcohol damages the youth brain, but he describes how the brain develops and the difference in development between the sexes.

A Recent Survey

A recent survey was conducted by Center Point, covering Gainesville/Hall County, for a statewide Alcohol Prevention Initiative funded by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. The following are the top issues reported by our youth:

  • The initial use of alcohol by our teens was between the ages of 12-13 (7th grade).
  • They felt that alcohol was easy to get and obtained it mostly from a family member or someone gave it to them.
  • They drank mostly on weekends and nights at their own home (or homes of their friends with indications that their parents knew or the parents of their friends knew).
  • As they got older, the perception that alcohol is harmful diminished.
  • They believed that friends their age drink and their closest friends get drunk.
  • They believed that parents allow alcohol parties.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This