Booze’s bad effects on young brains

2010-04-14 00:00

SOUTH Africans against Drunk Driving is pioneering youth education projects in the city, based on recent research that shows the damaging effects of alcohol on the developing brain.

“Drinking five quick units of alcohol within two hours has been proven to cause damage to the brain,” said SADD director, Caro Smit. According to Smit, the human brain is only fully developed at 21 years old, and excessive drinking beforehand can cause serious damage.

Smit and the SADD team have been spreading the word in Pietermaritzburg schools, by encouraging parents, teachers and teenagers to pledge to be alcohol-free. Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School, with SADD’s help, is gearing up for its alcohol awareness week, set to begin next Monday.

Researchers at Melbourne University said the bodies of children under 16 years of age have no capacity to filter alcohol without harming the brain. Smit said it is advisable to wait until at least the age of 18 before consuming any alcohol, and even then, just one unit of alcohol should be consumed per hour.

Smit said she was horrified to hear of a Hilton mother who recently served the alcoholic drink, Brutal Fruit, to a group of 14-year-old girls at a birthday party.

“She is essentially telling them you can’t have a good time without alcohol,” Smit said. “What parents don’t realise is that they are hurting their children’s brains by allowing them to drink alcohol,” said Smit.

According to Smit, the alcohol content in one of those coolers is higher than the alcohol content in a shot of vodka. “It’s all about understanding the units of alcohol. A shot of Stroh rum seems potent, but what people don’t realise is there is the same amount of alcohol in a Savannah cider. You see young girls drinking ciders all the time, thinking they are okay,” she said.

She added that SADD is not an anti-alcohol organisation, but is opposed to the negative effects of alcohol on society.

Statistics from the Medical Research Council show that about half of the deaths on South African roads are alcohol related.

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