Teen Binge Drinking: How it leads to Brain Alteration

Posted: January 6, 2016 by

teen binge drinking


People going through developmental stages of transition mature physically and emotionally from their teens into adulthood. This is the time for many teens to learn the skills they will use when they leave their parents and strike out on their own. It is also marked by more frequent and sophisticated social communications with peers, discovering new directions and behaviors, and an increased drive to take risks, including experimentation with drug and alcohol use. When it comes to teen binge drinking, the after-effects may last well into adult life.

Binge drinking, according to research, is defined as men consuming more than five drinks and women drinking four or more in a single session. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Nebraska is ranked as the second highest state with of binge drinkers in 2012. Some say that it may just be a cultural acceptance of alcohol or that it could be because teens feel there are no opportunities to do other things within the community. Whatever the reason is for teen binge drinking, the abuse can lead to grave brain alterations. Primary areas in the brain are still under construction during adolescence and young adulthood, which makes it more vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol.

Researchers found that pounding down drinks during adolescence and young adulthood may disturb gene expressions and brain progress, possibly contributing to changes in behavior. Wanting to find out what alterations are actually taking place inside the teenager’s brain, many papers have been published outlining how alcohol results in impairment. Heavy alcohol use is linked to changes in myelin, the protective coating surrounding nerve fibers that boosts communication between neurons, and damage to myelin can cause intellectual impairment later in life.

Thoughts and memory functions are affected in teenage binge drinking. A study from the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors compared young adults who are binge drinkers to those who remained non-drinkers. They found out that binge drinkers did worse on memory and thinking tests than those who didn’t drink. Those who engage in binge drinking are likely to perform poorly on tests of spatial functioning and attention. It seemed too hard for them to focus on something that might be somehow boring for a period of time.

Teenagers seem to have a higher tolerance for the immediate negative effects of binge drinking noted by a researcher from University of Pittsburgh, leading young adults to consume higher amounts of alcohol and enjoy the pleasures of it. But there will never be a doubt that binge drinking still creates a possibility that an addiction could emerge. The teenage brain is fit and ready for intense learning, and developing addictive tendencies increases the likelihood of engaging in binge drinking.

Brain tissues were also damaged in the teenage binge drinking studies. White matter in brain is very important for the relay of information between the brain cells, and develops during adolescence. White matter decreases in quality when engaged in binge drinking, which causes low, inefficient communication between brain cells. Another study shows that the hippocampus, a primary area for memory information, functioned abnormally for teen binge drinkers. The abnormal brain activity of teen binge drinkers has caused poor learning on verbal tests.

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