Still Under Construction

March is finally here and the thought of warmer weather and spring fill us all with hope! The month of March also brings a few days and events to be celebrated. If you are a sports fan there’s March Madness, a college basketball single-elimination tournament, which of course means lots of betting and in many cases binge drinking.  Then who could miss St. Patrick’s Day? Americanized in the USA it is now a day where those who are not Irish claim to be, beer is colored green, and parties can be found everywhere. Finally who isn’t looking forward to Spring Break? For some it is simply a week off of school to enjoy not worrying about standardized tests, homework, or waking up early and hopefully an opportunity to get outside. For others it means new experiences, vacations, parties and drinking galore.

 You may be wondering why all the references to drinking in March? Well what you may not have known is that March 11 – 17 is Brain Awareness Week. The goal of this week is to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research worldwide. As a parent, educator, community member, adolescent, or young adult understanding brain development can help you to realize the risks associated with underage drinking.

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 The human brain reaches its full size between the ages of 11 and 14 depending on gender; however at this point it is far from being fully developed. The important thing to know is that our brain does not fully develop and mature until our mid to late 20s. As a matter of fact, the front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. This area of the brain is responsible for planning, prioritizing, reasoning, controlling impulses, and emotional reactions (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018). It also has a role in the development of our personalities. Explains a lot, right!? Some may refer to the prefrontal cortex as our “voice of reasoning”! One might say that the brain is still under construction so imagine the affect that any consumption of alcohol, let alone high consumption, can have on the brain during this time.

 During this final stage of development the brain is building a foundation for lifelong success as an adult. Alcohol acts as a depressant which causes brain functions to slow down and development to be altered. The toxic effects that alcohol can have on this development can lead to permanent damage of brain function. On top of that, teens who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol disorder later in life. So as you go to hand off that drink to a minor, because I am sure we have all heard someone say “it’s safer for them to drink at home”, stop to think…is it worth the risk?

Written By:
Betsy Santana
Marketing & Fundraising Coordinator at Breaking Free

 If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol contact Breaking Free at 630.897.1003 for more information on the services that we provide.