What Are the Long-Term Effects of an Alcohol Overdose in Teens?

An alcohol overdose (i.e., alcohol poisoning) occurs when you consume alcohol at a rate fast enough to severely suppress normal activity in the body’s central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Every year, tens of thousands of teenagers throughout America expose themselves to an overdose risk by participating in a dangerous practice called binge drinking. In the short-term, alcohol poisoning can have severe or even fatal consequences for any teen or adult. In addition, teenagers who survive an overdose may experience age-specific brain effects that linger for a lifetime.

Key Signs of an Alcohol Overdose Include

Key signs of an alcohol overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • A confused or incoherent mental state
  • Convulsions (i.e., seizures)
  • Breaths spaced apart by at least 10 seconds
  • Failure to breath more than seven times a minute
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Dropping body temperature
  • Unresponsive, involuntary unconsciousness

These signs may appear separately or in any combination. The presence of even a single alcohol poisoning symptom should prompt an immediate call for emergency assistance. An unconscious person experiencing an overdose can potentially slip into a coma and die.

Long-Term Effects in Teens

Even in the absence of an overdose, alcohol poisoning can harm your teenager’s long-term health. This is true, in large part, because teens have not completed the gradual process of growth and development. While the physical aspects of this process may be more or less complete in older adolescents, mental growth and development won’t end until sometime in your child’s mid-20s. Permanent or long-term brain damage is a real possibility for any teenager or adult who survives alcohol poisoning. In addition, teens have growth-and-development-related brain risks not found in adults. Problems arise when high levels of alcohol permanently alter structures inside the developing brain or permanently alter the way in which the developing brain functions. An adolescent suffering from the permanent brain effects of an alcohol overdose may:

  • Have clearly altered brain structures
  • Experience ongoing problems making, storing or recalling memories
  • Experience a permanent decline in test scores and other important indicators of academic performance

  Sources: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – Facts About Alcohol Overdose (or Alcohol Poisoning)  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Adolescent Health: Risk of Adolescent Alcohol Use Medscape: Binge Drinking and Alcohol Poisoning in the Adolescent Population – Physiological Consequences

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