Back to top
Mayberry, Megan, PhD • February 28, 2009

Adolescence is a significant developmental period in which numerous changes occur, including the biological changes of puberty; greater autonomy from parents and family; increased time spent with peers; and the tendency to engage in greater exploration and risk-taking behaviors, like experimentation with alcohol. At the same time these changes are occurring, however, adolescents’ brains are developing in important ways. From birth through childhood, brain tissue and neurons are overproduced; then, during adolescence, the brain begins to strengthen the connections that are used, and connections that are not used are eliminated (Spear, 2000).

References & Citations

Acheson, S., Stein, R., & Swartzwelder, H.S. (1998). Impairment of semantic and figural memory by acute alcohol: Age-dependent effects. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 22, 1437-1442.

Brown, A.S., Tapert, S.F., Granholm, E., & Delis, D.C. (2000). Neurocognitive functioning of adolescents: Effects of protracted alcohol use. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 24,164-171.

Deas, D. & Thomas, S. (2002). Comorbid psychiatric factors contributing to adolescent alcohol and other drug use. Alcohol Research and Health, 26, 116-121.

De Bellis, M.D., Clark, D.B., Beers, S.R., Soloff, P.H., Boring, A.M., Hall, J., Kersh, A., & Keshavan, M.S. (2000). Hippocampal volume in adolescent-onset alcohol use disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157, 737-744.

Giedd, J.N. (1999). Brain development during childhood and adolescence: A longitudinal MRI study. Nature Neuroscience, 2, 861-863.

Grant, B.F. & Dawson, D.A. (1998). Age at onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse, 9, 103-110.

Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., Bachman, J.G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2006). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2005: Volume I, Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 06-5883). Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Little, P.J., Kuhn, C.M., Wilson, W.A., & Swartzwelder, H.S. (1996). Differential effects of alcohol in adolescent and adult rats. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 20, 1346-1351.

Markwiese, B.J., Acheson, S.K., Levin, E.D., Wilson, W.A., Swartzwelder, H.S. (1998). Differential effects of ethanol on memory in adolescent and adult rats. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 22, 416-421.

Spear, L.P. (2000). The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 417-463.

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Retrieved on March 17, 2007 at highlights2k5.htm.

Tapert, S.F., Granholm, E., Leedy, N.G., & Brown, S.A. (2002). Substance use and withdrawal: neuropsychological functioning over 8 years in youth. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 873-83.

Tapert, S.F., & Schweinsburg, A.D. (2005). The human adolescent brain and alcohol use disorders. In M. Galanter (Ed.), Recent Developments in Alcoholism, Vol. 17, (pp. 177-197). New York: Springer.

White, A.M., Truesdale, M., Bae, J., Ahmad, S., Wilson, W., Best P., & Swartzwelder, H. (2002). Differential effects of alcohol on motor coordination in adolescent and adult rats. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 73, 673-677.

White, A.M., & Swartzwelder, H.S. (2005). Age related effects of alcohol on memory and memory related brain function in adolescents and adults. In M. Galanter (Ed.), Recent Developments in Alcohol, Vol. 17, (pp. 161-176). New York: Springer.