Young man against fence in the middle of underage drinking out of control.Underage drinking has become a big problem in the United States, and it can lead to alcoholism as well. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 33 percent of Americans have drunk by 13 years old. Compared to cigarettes and marijuana, more teens use alcohol than anything else. This can become a serious problem because the brain of a teen hasn’t yet fully developed.

One of the reasons that underage drinking gets out of hand is because many people believe it’s inevitable. While this is true to an extent, it’s important to look for the signs of potential alcoholism. Approximately 5.1 million young people report binge drinking, which is four or five drinks within two hours. It’s important to understand teenage brain development and signs of alcohol addiction to get help as soon as possible.

Underage Drinking and the Brain

Many don’t realize it, but there’s a reason the legal drinking age in the United States is 21 years old. This is due to the fact that the prefrontal cortex of the brain doesn’t fully develop until a person’s mid-20s. The prefrontal cortex has a wide range of responsibilities, and it’s what helps people limit their drinking. Without the full development of this part of the brain, a young person is more likely to abuse alcohol.

Some of the responsibilities of the prefrontal cortex are:

  • Logical decision making
  • Impulse control
  • Fear modulation
  • Emotional regulation

The other primary responsibility of the prefrontal cortex is to help limit the flow of dopamine when someone drinks. Teens get an excess flood of dopamine when they drink, so they have a much different experience than adults. Since the brain produces less dopamine around the time of puberty, this may become a new way to get it. It’s common for teens to begin turning to alcohol as a solution to life’s issues, as well.

How Underage Drinking Becomes a Problem

As adults, it’s typical for us to forget how stressful being a teenager actually was. Whether it was worrying about a date for homecoming, upcoming exams, the big game or friends, it was stressful. This period of a teen’s life is for experiencing these different issues and learning how to handle them in a healthy way. The problem begins when underage boys and girls begin to turn to alcohol as a way to manage this stress.

During this time in a person’s life, the brain is very susceptible to forming a habit loop that’s hard to break. Once a teen starts drinking as a way to deal with stress and other problems, the brain sees this as a solution. The next time the teen feels down, the brain reminds him or her that alcohol can help like it did the last time. Eventually, the only solution he or she sees is to continue underage drinking to deal with life’s problems.

Underage Drinking and Mental Illness

Mental illness usually develops between the ages of 14 and 24 and it’s scary. Most young people don’t know what’s happening when he or she develops symptoms of anxiety or depression. Much like dealing with stress, the teen may turn to alcohol as a way to feel better or calm the mind. This eventually turns into another way in which the brain sees alcohol as a solution, and it can easily become an addiction.

Beaches Recovery is here to provide young people with student addiction treatment in Jacksonville, Florida. Our drug and alcohol addiction treatment center specializes in working with young people and providing support. Your son or daughter will be with others who are his or her peers so they see they aren’t alone. Our facility will also work with your insurance company to find out the best way to afford treatment. Help your young person live an alcohol-free life for here on out. Today is the day. The number is 866-605-0532.