New imaging machines, such as MRIs, PET and SPECT scans, have given scientists exciting views into the development of the human brain.

  • While we once thought the brain was fully developed at birth, we now know that the brain continues to develop until the mid-20s.
  • New scientific research shows that alcohol affects a teen’s still-developing brain very differently than an adult’s, and it can harm brain development.
  • Alcohol slows down brain activity, and the negative effect of alcohol lasts far longer in a teen’s brain than in an adult’s (up to two weeks).
  • If a teen uses alcohol before his or her brain is fully developed, it can keep the good judgment and impulse-control part of the brain from properly developing or “wiring.” It can also damage the memory and learning areas of the brain and greatly increase the risk of alcohol addiction.
  • Underage drinking also increases the risk of mental illness and contributes to other anti-social behavior.
  • More teens die as a result of alcohol use than all other illegal drugs combined (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2002).

Surgeon General issues a national “Call to Action”

In response to a growing national concern over the new teen alcohol-brain-damage research, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a “Call to Action” in early 2007 declaring:

I have issued this ‘Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking’ to focus national attention on… new, disturbing research, which indicates that the developing adolescent brain may be particularly susceptible to long-term, negative consequences from alcohol use.

Recent studies show that alcohol consumption has the potential to trigger long-term biological changes that may have detrimental effects on the developing adolescent brain, including neuro-cognitive impairment. …Adolescent alcohol use is not an acceptable rite of passage, but a serious threat to adolescent development and health.

Read the entire Surgeon General’s Call to Action.

Underage drinking in Utah starts early

The following statistics are taken from the Student Health And Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey – given bi-annually to more than 50,000 students in Utah public schools – and annual telephone surveys of Utah parents.

  • In Utah, many kids now begin drinking in elementary school, and binge drinking is a common activity by the 10th grade.1
  • Most parents, however, are unaware of their child’s alcohol use.
  • In a national survey, 31-percent of kids who said they had been drunk in the past year had parents who believed their children were non-drinkers.
  • On average, Utah parents begin talking to their children about not drinking alcohol two years too late.

For references and more information, please visit

Comments or Questions?