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Excessive drinking during adolescence may reduce brain’s grey matter, says study

Excessive drinking during adolescence may reduce brain’s grey matter, says study

April 11 | By CAAH Team

Alcohol is one of the most addictive substances that has severely affected Americans in the last decade. Despite the physicians and agencies at the federal level condemning its regular consumption, the culture of drinking is prevalent in roughly 86 percent of the adult population as noted in the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Researchers are still trying to understand what makes some people, especially the young, drink more than others.

A Finnish study while observing the drinking behavior prevalent among the youngsters has suggested that adolescents who drink more are at a greater likelihood of having less grey matter in their brain when compared with their peers. Grey matter is important as it aids in memory, making key decisions and exercising control on one’s own self. The study titled “Alcohol consumption during adolescence is associated with reduced grey matter volumes” got published online in the journal Addiction in January 2017.

Does heavy teenage drinking lead to reduced brain volume?

The study suggested the possibility that people may have decreased quantity of grey matter owing to hereditary factors, and this abnormal condition may put them at a greater likelihood of abusing alcohol. Lead author of the study, Noora Heikkinen from the University of Eastern Finland observed the prevalence of substance use in cases of social exclusion, mental health problems and lower educational attainment which bring brain structural changes among substance-using individuals.

The researchers observed 62 young adults, participants of the Finnish Youth Wellbeing Study. The respondents, from 2013 to 2015, had responded to questions inquiring about the frequency of their drinking habits and the number of drinks they consumed. The longitudinal study was carried out for a span of 10 years and drinkers were followed-up at three different times.

Among the adolescent teenagers, 35 of the respondents were identified as heavy drinkers. The rest were found to be light drinkers. None of the participants showed signs of depression or of any kind of grievous mental health problem. Both heavy and light drinkers exhibited similar tendencies of anxiousness, personality disorders and use of drugs. The scientists also observed that heavy drinkers showed greater proclivity to smoke cigarettes when contrasted with light drinkers.

Magnetic resonance imaging was carried out during the last phase to look at the grey matters and other structures of the brain. It was found that heavy drinkers had shrunk volumes of grey matter in several brain areas when compared with their light drinking counterparts.

Heavy drinking at life’s early stage dangerous

Stressing on the implications of the drinking behavior of teenagers, Samantha Brooks, a lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa said, “The frontal section of the brain, which helps people plan and make decisions, continues developing until people reach their early 20s. During this period of brain development, teens are in a ‘vulnerability window’ where they may be more likely to develop substance use problems.” Though she was not involved in the study, she brought to light the fact that drinking during this sensitive phase may cause damage to brains and cause other problem behaviors like missing school or having unsafe sex. The fact that steady drinking can lead to decreased grey matter volume makes it necessary to educate teenagers about the dangers of early drinking.

Heavy drinking can result in addiction

The initial years are important for brain development and drinking habits can hamper the growth process. Timely treatment is the key to deal with addiction before it becomes unmanageable. If you or your loved one is fighting alcohol addiction, contact the Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help for guidance on the best facilities in addiction treatment in Colorado. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 or chat online with our counselors to know about some of the finest alcohol addiction treatment centers in Colorado.


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