Alcohol: Teen Brains Hurt More Than Adults

By J. Grant Swank, Jr.
December 10, 2002

Sandra Brown, chief of psychology services at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Diego, supports the conclusion of the American Medical Association that adolescent brains are damaged more by alcohol use than adult brains.

This conclusion is prompting the AMA to ask TV broadcasters to curtail alcohol ads seen by youths.

"We've known for years that alcohol makes kids dead. What we have here is evidence that it makes them dumb. That's what makes this news," stated AMA vice president Michael Scotti, providing data compiled over twenty years of research showing alcohol abuse can bring about brain damage in young people.

Ms. Brown stated that researchers have scoped test subjects for eight years, a time frame not lengthy enough to determine whether such damage is irreversible; but it is time frame enough to show that alcohol takes a greater toll on adolescent brains than adult brains. Adults would need to drink two times as much to damage their brains with the same severity.

AMA asks that networks and cable TV not air alcohol advertisements on TV fare before 10 p.m. or that have 15 percent or more underage viewers.

Further, AMA asks TV broadcasters not to air alcohol commercials with cartoons, mascots or characters aimed at young people, for example Budweiser bullfrogs.

In 1984, the four major networks reasoned not to show hard liquor ads. Nevertheless, liquor ads have been shown on local stations and cable since l997.

"It's time TV executives and the alcohol industry stop profiting at the hands of those most harmed by drinking," AMA chairman J. Edward Hill stated.

AMA said that if TV personnel do not promise within six months to follow through with the AMA suggestions, the doctors will "continue to raise the issue-with the networks, the public and policymakers."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Princeton funds the present AMA endeavor.

Topics: Psychology

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

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