The consequences of alcohol for young people

Young people drink alcohol when going out or at other (festive) occasions. One to two drinks per occasion per week would be about the maximum for a sixteen year old. However, people usually drink more and more often than this. What effects does this have on the development of a young person?

Possible positive consequences

Although not all researchers agree, consuming low doses of alcohol generally appears to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, this only seems to apply to people who have a regular moderate drinking pattern without episodes of heavy drinking (more than six glasses of alcohol more than once a week). These positive effects also only seem to have an effect after the age of 45.

Adverse effects

Of course, every person reacts differently to alcohol. Factors such as weight, food intake, the social context at the time of drinking and expectations play a major role. A certain amount of alcohol does not necessarily lead to the same reaction in every person. Yet young people are drinking more and more and there are other striking developments in drinking among young people that can be very dangerous for the development of the body and mind.

A disinhibitory effect

Since alcohol has a disinhibitory effect (i.e. alcohol is a depressant), this can lead to more daring in a social context. Someone can feel freer or looser. This can lead to making social contacts easier. However, this can also lead to aggressive and risky behavior. A person may start doing things they would otherwise never do, such as one-night stands, getting into fights or taking strange bets. For example, it has been shown that girls who have been drinking are more likely to have (unprotected) sex. This puts them at risk of becoming pregnant and/or contracting an STD. Young people who drink weekly (12 to 16 year olds) also appear to show more delinquent, violent and aggressive behavior than young people who do not drink weekly.

Short-term consequences: Alcohol poisoning

Although drunkenness is also a symptom of poisoning, alcohol poisoning often refers to the stage that comes after drunkenness. In addition to the symptoms of normal intoxication, the person will exhibit drowsy, absent-minded, and fatigued behavior. In addition, he will always fall asleep. Alcohol poisoning often involves vomiting, diarrhea and feeling unwell. The person will no longer respond to addressing, calling or physical contact (such as tapping). More serious alcohol poisoning can lead to respiratory arrest, a coma or even cardiac arrest, so alcohol poisoning can be fatal.

Body: Brain and organs

Alcohol is a foreign substance and the body has difficulty breaking down alcohol. This has an impact on the body of the young person, possibly even more than on the body of an adult, because the body is still developing. The brain, among other things, is affected. It has been shown that young people with an indication for alcohol abuse or dependence have abnormalities in both volume and structure of the brain. They therefore have more difficulty with learning and memory.
In addition, the organs are affected in the (longer) term, especially the liver. The main problems are liver fat, hepatitis and cirrhosis. In addition, there is an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, damage to the brain (for example due to a stroke) and nerves.


Memory loss can occur with large amounts of alcohol. This is often referred to as a blackout. This means there are gaps in the memory of the period in which drinking occurred or all memories are gone. In youth, excessive alcohol consumption may only lead to memory loss, but as one gets older it can lead to Korsakov’s syndrome (characteristics are memory loss and disorientation) or delirium (state of mental confusion, disorientation and the inability to focus attention on something). ).

What is the government doing about this?

The government is trying to limit the use of alcohol among young people. On January 1, 2013, it was prohibited for young people under the age of 16 to have alcohol with them. As of January 1, 2014, this age limit has been increased to 18 years. This means that young people under the age of 18 are not allowed to have alcohol with them, but also that it is a criminal offense to sell alcohol to them.
In addition, there is a focus on prevention. For example, GPs receive guidelines to recognize the first signs of alcoholism. Information is also provided at schools. Special teaching packages have been developed for this purpose by the Trimbos Institute and are implemented by the GGD and addiction care institutions. Furthermore, parents are asked to include alcohol in their education.

read more

  • Alcohol as a depressant
  • Alcohol among young people: striking developments
  • Smoking, pregnancy and children