The place you want to keep clean and smart. The space you want to fill with sensible sustainable stuff and the BIG dream. It’s the most powerful device you have. *
For still-developing brains, there is only risk associated with alcohol use. The mind is not fully developed until after adolescence, as late as the mid-20s for some youth.
TORCH: a tool that can be carried with you to light your way.
Brain research has revealed that it is the connections between the brain cells, neurons, that carry our individuality, memory, and intellect. During adolescence the brain starts an extensive “remodeling”. The prefrontal cortex is one part of the brain in which this remodeling is profound. This is where scientists believe that working memory, voluntary motor behavior, impulse control, rule learning, spatial learning, planning, and decision-making occur. The body, seeking efficiency, starts “pruning” out the unused areas of your brain during adolescence. What you are doing inside your brain and how you interact with your environment influences what is kept and what is cut way in the brain. In other words, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Alcohol --or any other illegal drugs interferes with the chemical reactions in these connections between neurons. Using alcohol as a teenager interferes with the chemical reactions during the remodeling process, therefore changing the way your brain functions and ultimately limiting your potential. It’s like choosing to illuminate your rooms in your home without electrical wiring.
COMPASS: an instrument that allows you to travel in unfamiliar terrain
The prefrontal cortex, which manages complex thinking, planning, inhibition, and emotional regulation, develops rapidly during adolescence. It has been long known that adults with long-term exposure to alcohol have smaller brains. New research shows that the increased amount of alcohol use in teens is related to decreased size of the prefrontal cortex. “It could be that, with less white matter in the prefrontal cortex, information does not transfer in this area as rapidly and efficiently as is needed for the sorts of complex decision making young people need to do. It may be harder to inhibit urges, delay gratification, and think clearly about the consequences of actions." 1 Science has not yet determined the effect on adult learning skills when the use of alcohol began at an early age. Using alcohol before 21 is like buying a compass with no true north.
VIEW: perception that is based upon one’s experience of the world
Alcohol is a depressant; it affects the endorphins in brain and ultimately the brain’s functioning. It impairs impulse control and logical thinking. When youth are binge-drinking, which is defined as five or more drinks for males and four or more for females, their poor judgment sometimes results in unhappy circumstances. Alcohol kills more teens than all other controlled substances. Intoxicated female youth are often aggressively pursued by males, raising the risks for unplanned and unsafe sex, sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections and/or pregnancy. Choosing to use alcohol before age 21 is like wearing sunglasses at night. It’s hard to see what’s coming at you.
INERTIA: a tendency to remain in place resisting movement
Alcohol is an addictive drug. If you are drinking by the age of 14 you have a 47% chance of developing an alcohol dependence problem some time in your life. That’s like gambling your body and future on a flip of the coin. Waiting until age 21 to start drinking reduces the risk of becoming an alcoholic to 9% if you have no family history of alcoholism. The average age at the first drink of alcohol has gone down from 17½ years in 1965 to age 14 in 2003. This trend helps to explain why 53% of the alcoholics in the U.S. were age 26 or less in 2003. 2
Compared to their peers, young people with untreated alcohol problems are:
- 9.5 times more likely to drink and drive;
- 8.5 times more likely to have serious problems with other drugs;
- 5.5 times more likely to be arrested;
- 5 times more likely to attempt suicide;
- 4.5 times more likely to get into a serious fight;
- 3 times more likely to be hospitalized with a mental health problem;
- 2.25 times more likely to smoke;
- Almost twice as likely to have multiple sexual partners;
- 1.5 times more likely to have a C+ average or lower and are likely to miss twice as much school;
- 1.5 times more likely to require hospital emergency room care;
- 1.5 times more likely to get into an accident, injure or poison themselves. 3
There is no “cure” for alcoholism, only recovery from abusing it and a lifetime of management.
IMPACT: the ability to alter the momentum of an object
You are a complex dynamic person capable of learning new skills and thoughts and applying them to solve problems. When all parts of the brain and body are functioning well, then you get natural highs from endorphins.
You are capable of defining and seeking your own personal BIG dream. Your intuitive leaps and innovative thoughts can influence others, possibly the world. Why dilute your potential with alcohol? Wait until your brain is mature; then drink sensibly. Take the time while you are young to take risks by putting your self in different learning environments. Explore your interests fully, develop your potential. In the end, be an agent of change instead of being that which is acted upon.
* Lutheran World Relief Handcraft project, 2008-2009 Catalog
1 Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (2005, September 16). Adolescents And Young Adults With Alcohol-use Disorders Have A Smaller Prefrontal Cortex. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050916080920.htm
2 Alcohol Alert, (2006, January) Underaged Drinking: Why do Adolescents Drink, What are the risks, and How Can Underage Drinking Be Prevented, US Department of Health & Human Services, n 67.
3 Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, 2021 K Street NW Suite 800, Washington DC 20006 Retreived November 6, 2008, from http://www.alcoholcostcalulator.org/kids/report.php?population=399760&