Drinking in adolescence ‘alters brain activity’

19th January, 2017 by Kristiane Sherry

Long-term heavy drinking during adolescence alters electrical brain activity, according to new research from the University of Eastern Finland and the Kuopio University Hospital.

Alcohol Genetics

Heavy drinking in adolescence can alter brain activity, new research suggests

The study, which has been published in journal Addiction Biology, followed 27 physically and mentally healthy teenagers aged from 13-18 years when the research began. They were then age-, gender- and education-matched with teenagers who consumed little or no alcohol.

By the time the participants reached 23- to 28-years-old, it was found the heavy alcohol users showed greater electrical activity in key parts of the brain that control central nervous system function and play a role in anxiety, depression and some neurological disorders.

Although none of the participants met the criteria to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, “significant alterations” in both electrical and chemical neurotransmissions were found in the heavily drinking participants.

According to the researchers, heavy alcohol use in young people whose brain is still developing is “especially detrimental”.

“The findings of the study warrant the question of whether the diagnostic criteria for substance abuse disorders should be tighter for adolescents, and whether they should be more easily referred to treatment,” the report concludes.

“The use of alcohol may be more detrimental to a developing brain than previously thought, although it takes time for alcohol-related adverse effects to manifest in a person’s life.”

The findings follow a recent report which suggested children who are given alcohol by their parents are less likely to binge drink by the age of 15 or 16, but are twice as likely to drink full serves.

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