Early Heavy Drinking May Alter Brain Development

From Psychiatric News Alert: Differences in brain development are apparent in the brain scans of individuals who began drinking heavily during adolescence, writes Lindsay Squeglia, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, in the June issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Heavy-drinking adolescents showed accelerated gray matter volume reductions in the neocortex and smaller increases in white matter volumes in some structures compared with the nondrinkers, which Squeglia suggested may possibly “contribute to short-term or long-term negative effcts on cognitive, social, and academic functioning.

Causality cannot be determined from this study, she concluded. However, “[t]hese results provide a call for caution regarding heavy alcohol use during adolescence, whether heavy alcohol drinking is the cause or one of many factors in a constellation of causes of these alterations in brain development.”

For more information about adolescents and alcohol, see the Psychiatric News article “Teen Alcohol, Tobacco Use Down, E-cigarette Use Up.”

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