Last night I heard Tim Burns talk about brain development in the adolescent years. He also went into some detail about how drug and alcohol use affects the brain. For the most part, I liked what he had to say. He was an interesting and effective speaker.
But here is where I am concerned about his message:
He talked about the extreme negative implications of binge drinking. The depressing effect of large amounts of alcohol (generally more than four or five drinks) has something of a whiplash effect on the brain as it’s wearing off. That burns through lots of brain cells. Clearly, that’s very, very bad.
However, Burns added some nuance to that message by saying that what he termed “social drinking,” or having only one drink, is generally fine, and may even have positive physiological effects. But that’s a message that I’m just not comfortable with. Teenagers’ first sexual experience is often associated with some alcohol use – but not necessarily binge drinking. And losing your virginity is just never improved by the presence of even small amounts of alcohol.
So while I appreciate that social drinking doesn’t necessarily have negative physiological effects, if we’re talking about nuances, we should also discuss how even social drinking can impair teenager’s social decision making. And that leaves them open to sexual experiences they wouldn’t choose to have sober.