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Teen Girls' Health

Brain Poison for Teens

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By Jennifer Ashton, M.D., Ob-Gyn with Christine Larson
WebMD Feature by “The Body Scoop for Girls”


Medically speaking, even small amounts of alcohol are not OK for teens. Because teen brains are still developing, they’re much more susceptible to potentially addictive substances and behaviors than adult brains. Drinking as a teen does far more damage to your brain than drinking in your twenties or later. Recent studies have shown that people who use drugs or alcohol before age fifteen were two to three times more likely to have addiction or dependence problems later in life. These same studies showed this group had higher rates of STIs, of dropping out of school, of criminal records, and of teen pregnancies. Overall this means that drinking as a teen isn’t bad just for your health but for your future.

Dr. Ashton's Alcohol Playlist

  • You’ll have your whole life to enjoy alcohol responsibly. You don’t need to drink as a teen. Wait until your brain has developed enough to handle moderate drinking without damage.
  • Don’t drink until you’re twenty-one. Then keep it to one or two drinks, because women don’t metabolize alcohol the same way men do.

Know How to Say No

With a little creativity, you can make most of these excuses fit any situation where you want to say no—drinking, drugs, sex, you name it.

  1. “I don’t believe in polluting my body.”
  2. “I just don’t feel the need to experience altered consciousness. My own consciousness is just fine, thanks.”
  3. “I’d rather spend my calories on cookies.”
  4. “Didn’t you hear about the teen who died from drinking during rush at his fraternity?”
  5. “I’m missing the enzyme that digests alcohol. Even one drink could kill me.”
  6. “I have asthma and can’t smoke.”
  7. “My parents do random drug testing at home.”
  8. “I’m afraid. If you tease me for that, I won’t be your friend anymore.”
  9. “I’m driving tonight.”

Ready, Set, No

My friend Maggie always calls herself the “milk and cookies” type. In high school she was always ready for adventure—whether that was trying out for a school musical, checking out a new dance club, or learning to snowboard. But one thing she never felt adventurous about was drinking.

“It actually scared me,” she said. “I always ended up feeling like some kind of wimp. But I didn’t want to drink and I didn’t like seeing my friends drunk. I’d rather go home and bake cookies. For a while I felt like a total loser, since I wasn’t hanging out with my friends. But I came up with some good excuses so I could go out with them, have fun, and leave when they started drinking.”

She ended up telling her friends that she couldn’t drink because she was lacking an enzyme that digests alcohol. “I said even one drink could kill me,” she recalls. And she’d volunteer to drive her friends home if they drank too much.

I think it’s a very smart strategy to know exactly how you’ll say no in any given situation. Armed with a ready-made excuse that you’ve practiced in the mirror a few times, you’ll sound cool, confident, and totally in control.

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