Alcohol and the adolescent brain – a webinar with Professor Susan Tapert and The Alcohol Forum

Calling all parents of teenagers! Would you like to be able to help your teenagers to avoid getting involved with alcohol during their adolescent years? This webinar organised by the Alcohol Forum based here in Letterkenny gives you the chance to understand how the adolescent brain develops and the impact alcohol or cannabis use can have on it – putting you in a better position to have those important conversations with the teenagers in your life.

Alcohol and the adolescent brain

We all have an important role to play in supporting young people to avoid, delay and minimize alcohol use as they pass through adolescence. Hosted by the Alcohol Forum, this webinar will feature the latest international research on brain development during the teenage years and the impact that alcohol use can have. Professor of Psychiatry, Susan Tapert, from the University of California will outline her ground-breaking research on adolescent brain development, the impact of the repeated use of alcohol and cannabis drugs during adolescent and young adult years and brain markers predictive of substance misuse. The Alcohol Forum will be launching a new resource for young people: Alcohol – Its a No Brainer – All you need to know about alcohol and the teenage brain.

Who’s it for?:
 This webinar will be of interest to professionals and organisations working with young people and parents including those working in the fields of well-being, mental health, education and substance use.

When: Jun 11, 2020 05:00 PM Dublin

Topic: Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain

Registration: In advance –

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Questions for Speaker: If you have any questions in advance of the seminar that you would like to be addressed as part of the content, these can be emailed to There will also be an opportunity to ask questions during the seminar.

Alcohol and other drugs – the hidden harm

Are you interested in exploring the hidden harm caused to family life by alcohol and other drugs? LYIT together with the Alcohol Forum are offering a level 9 Minor Award which is also part of their Master of Science in Therapeutic Interventions for Alcohol and other Drugs

This award combines theory with practical application and practice based theory from local, national and international guest speakers and lecturers. It is a response to the current impetus within Community, Education, Justice, Health, Social Work and Social Care sectors to respond with knowledge and skills as to enable them to work confidently with young people and their families whose lives are challenged by someones alcohol or other drug use.

See below for details on how to apply

Support for family members affected by the alcohol or substance misuse of others within their family

Is someone within your family misusing drugs or alcohol? Is that misuse impacting on you and other family members? The Donegal Addiction Service in partnership with Family Members and the National Family Support Network have recently set up a family support group in Letterkenny. The group currently meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month in CARA House. The plan is that the group will run every fortnight from September and that groups will be started in other parts of Donegal from 2019. For further information contact 01 8980148

Teenagers, alcohol and the risk of Cancer

Drinking in Teens and 20’s Increases Cancer Risk 
European Action on Alcohol Week runs from 20 – 24 November

·         Around 900 people are diagnosed with an alcohol-associated cancer each year in Ireland.
·         Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer. Drink less to reduce your risk.

This year’s European Action on Alcohol awareness week takes place from 20 – 24 November, with a focus on ‘Alcohol and Cancer’. The HSE is highlighting the campaign in Ireland and recommending that people visit  to find out more about reducing your risk of developing cancer.

Every year in Ireland, approximately 900 people are newly diagnosed with alcohol related cancer. Alcohol causes 7 types of cancer including mouth, larynx , throat, oesophagus, breast, liver and bowel and is listed by the World Health Organisation as a Group 1 carcinogen along with tobacco, asbestos and HPV. The cancer risks from alcohol are real. However, there is robust evidence which shows that over one third of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle modification.

This year’s awareness week highlights the link between drinking habits early in life and long term risk of developing cancer. Many young people don’t realise that drinking in your teens and 20’s increases your cancer risk. Just as smoking does not cause lung cancer overnight, drinking in your teens and twenties does not result in a diagnosis of cancer immediately, but it certainly increases the risk 10-20 years later. The campaign highlights the fact that for younger people, what they drink now has an effect on their cancer risk sooner than they may think. Quarter of women who developed breast cancer were under 55, and half of mouth, head and neck cancers are diagnosed in those aged between 50-64years.

Dr Marie Laffoy, Assistant National Director, HSE National Cancer Control Programme says, We have known for some time that drinking alcohol regularly increases the risk of developing some types of cancer but this evidence means it’s important to get the message out to young people that what they drink now effects their cancer risk in the future. Drinking regularly in your teens and 20’s does have an effect long term and this isn’t something you can ignore until you are in your 50’s and worry about it then. The positive news is that this is something every individual has the power to control – the less we drink, the lower the risk of developing these cancers.

Women in their teens and 20’s who drink regularly increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 34%. The Healthy Ireland 2016 survey reported that just 16% of 15-24 year old women were aware of the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (1 in 8 breast cancers are caused by alcohol). What even less will be aware of is that the risk of breast cancer risk is greater among women who start drinking prior to their first pregnancy. Even low levels of alcohol consumption (just over 1 drink per day) can increase a woman’s risk.

In Irish men, alcohol poses the greatest risk for mouth, head and neck cancers. Those who drink two or more standard drinks per day are three times more likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime with these cancers compared with those who do not drink.  Over half mouth, head and neck cancers diagnosed in Ireland can be associated with alcohol. For men and women who drink alcohol throughout their lifetime, there is a 49% increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Research shows no significant difference depending on the type of drink. Whatever the type of alcohol consumed, the effects are the same. Drinking less reduces the risk of cancer.

For more information on a low risk approach to alcohol visit The website has features that can help you to assess your drinking including a drinks calculator and self-assessment tool.  The website also provides information for people who are worried about their own drinking, or worried about someone close to them, and has a service finder to help connect people to support and services.

Alcohol, drugs and teenagers

Current trends- A SNAPSHOT                           

One of the most commonly abused drugs in Ireland is alcohol. The excessive intake of alcohol is across all socio economic backgrounds and is seen by many young people as a way of life at the weekends. The number of girls excessively drinking from mid teens has increased greatly and now drinking is seen by some, as a waste of money if the person is not intoxicated by the end of the night.

Another drug young people have become heavily reliant on is cannabis. Young people are reporting smoking cannabis as a way to relax and forget any issues. However, once challenged a young people will usually not be aware of the dangers of cannabis on their mental and physical health. Young people also report cannabis as one of the most available drugs in their area.

Today young people are also experimenting with Benzodiazepines.  Young people report craving the feeling of calm from the drug. Young people report stealing benzodiazepines from family members who have been prescribed the medication and sold it on as there is such a high demand for the drugs. One of the most abused benzodiazepine and sought after drugs is Valium. They are sometimes used to ease the comedown from stimulant drugs (‘uppers’) such as ecstasy, cocaine and speed or with other ‘downer’ drugs such as alcohol and heroin.  Prescribed medications should be kept in a locked medication cupboard and only opened by a responsible adult.

How can I try and deter my son/daughter from experimenting with drugs?

Communication is essential. Talk and listen to your young person, make sure they are aware they can talk to you. Some young people fear getting in trouble or your reaction.  Tell your young person you are there for them and will help support them.

Educate yourself, look up drug educational sites like  this site has all information on drugs from the types, the dangers and the effects. Once you know the facts, talking to your young person about drugs will become a lot easier.

  • Let your young person know the facts, dangers and effects of drugs. Have conversations and discussions about the dangers of drugs and very importantly what to do if someone offered them a substance.
  • Know where and who your young person is friends with. Remember as their parent/guardian it’s your responsibility to know they are safe at all times!
  • Discourage your young person from smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Set clear boundaries and consequences with your young person.
  • Let them know how proud you are of them and encourage sports, music and other health protective activities.


What should I do if I find a drug in my young person’s room?

Remain calm as communication is essential, this situation can be very stressful and worrying for a parent/guardian.  However, you must be calm when talking to your young person about the substance. This may be the time when the young person will share any worries or issues with you. You need to be supportive and listen very carefully to their reasons for experimenting with the drug.  Help can be provided by the Foróige Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Education Programme for both the young person and their parents/guardians.  Contact Cara Currid 086 0481977

What should I do if my young person returns home under the influence of alcohol/drugs?

Remain calm, try not to panic. Sit with the young person in a quiet room. If the young person’s state starts to deteriorate or the young person becomes unwell CALL 999 for medical help.   If you know what they have taken, tell the medics. Save any pill bottles or other containers for the medics to help them know what they have taken.  These situations can be extremely frightening and stressful for the young person and their parent/ guardian.

When the young person has recovered, discuss the incident in a calm and supportive way. Many services are available to help both parents/guardians and the young person.

Useful resource for parents:

Foróige  Alcohol/Drug Prevention and Education

Are you a parent of a young person aged 10-17 who would like more information on drugs/alcohol?  Are you a concerned parent that your young person may be using or misusing drugs/ alcohol?  Perhaps you would like someone to talk to / or have someone talk with your young person.

The Foróige Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Education Programme provide young people with information and skills to help promote health protective behaviours reducing risky incidents. We can help clarify information, dispel myths, challenge attitudes and provide factual information about tobacco, alcohol and drugs, relevant to the age of your young person and we can do this with parents or a young person on a one to one meeting or over the phone or as part of a group.

We can provide young people with a safe environment in which they can discuss their opinions and attitudes about drugs, develop and enhance their life skills to deal with situations in the future and make decisions which will improve their overall health and well-being.

For young people who are already having problems as a result of drug or alcohol misuse we can also help.  We can explore with young people the risks associated with drug taking, identifying ways that they can reduce the risks of harm from drug misuse and the environment in which they may take substances.  We can help young people to develop life skills such as being able to look at the risks involved, make positive decisions, control their impulses and improve their communication skill.

You can contact Cara Currid, Foróige Project Worker 086 0481977 for more information.