The health risks of excessive drinking are well known.
Now scientists are beginning to explore the impact of both consumption and binge drinking on brain development in adolescents.
And what they’re finding is troubling.
Researchers from the University of Chicago have just released the results of a study that shows that adolescent binge drinking changes the brain genetically in such a way so as to increase the likelihood of antisocial behavior as well as anxiety and depressive disorders later in life.
Binge drinking at an early age also increases the likelihood of alcohol dependency in later years as well.
"Binge drinking early in life modifies the brain and changes connectivity in the brain, especially in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional regulation and anxiety, in ways we don't totally understand yet," said Subhash Pandey, professor of psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine, director of the UIC Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics and lead author of the study. "But what we do know is that epigenetic changes are lasting, and increase susceptibility to psychological issues later in life, even if drinking that took place early in life is stopped."
"Exposure to alcohol causes epigenetic reprogramming to occur, leading to molecular changes in the amygdala, which are long-lasting, even in the absence of more alcohol," said Pandey. "If the amygdala has deficits in its wiring or connectivity, and these modifications are long-lasting, the individual is at risk for psychological issues based on difficulties in regulating emotions, such as anxiety or depression and the development of alcohol use disorder later in life."
Are these the only problems associated with binge drinking in young people?
Researchers also report that excessive drinking during adolescence can impact memory and lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life as well.
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