In Tennessee, it is illegal to drink alcohol when you are under the age of 21. Doing so can lead to arrests and convictions that cost you money and time. Fines, jail time and community service are often the outcome of a drunk driving or drug conviction, but perhaps the biggest effects of drinking underage can be felt on the long-term changes made to the teenage brain.
During the teenage years, the brain is still developing, and anything that hampers that development can change the course of a life. Alcohol acts as a depressant of the central nervous system, although it may initially appear to be a stimulant because it also depresses sections of the brain that are responsible for inhibitions.
The frontal lobes are responsible for making decisions, forming ideas, planning and using self-control. When you introduce alcohol into the brain too early, your ability to control urges and emotions may go out the window. You may do things you would not normally do and even become violent. If you continue to drink, the damage may last forever.
You make memories in the hippocampus, and alcohol can affect your ability to remember short term items, such as a phone number or a name, even after just a few drinks. If you continue to drink, you may enter a blackout phase where you cannot remember an entire night's events. Extensive drinking while underage can lead to irreparable damage to the hippocampus, decreasing your ability to remember events long-term.
The cerebellum controls awareness, thoughts and coordination, and once alcohol is in the system, these skills greatly decrease. Drinking alcohol may make your hands shake, cause you to lose your balance and even cause serious falls.
What about your future?
It is not just the health effects of drinking while underage that you should worry about. After an arrest and a conviction for a crime, your criminal record may prevent you from getting a job, finding housing or even borrowing money for college. If law enforcement catches you drinking underage or arrests you for another drug or alcohol-related crime, we encourage you to speak to an attorney today.