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Heavy Teen Drinking Linked to Reduced Brain Volume

Mar
08

Date: March 8th, 2017

The observational study cannot be singularly based on to say that heavy drinking is responsible for stunted brain development. Less brain matter may as well be due to genetic factors, and it is such an abnormality that raises their possibility of abusing alcohol.

The lead author, Noora Heikkinen of the University of Eastern Finland, said that “Substance use has been found to be connected to social exclusion, mental health problems and lower educational attainment.”

Impact of less gray matter

If the gray matter is less in an individual, the same problem occurs because gray matter has most brain neurons and is instrumental in self-control, decision making, emotions and memory.

Through an email to Reuters, Heikkinen said that “Brain structural changes might be one factor that contributes to the social and mental problems among substance-using individuals.”

How the study was done

In a study set out to find how alcohol affects the teenagers, 62 young adults taking part in the Finnish Youth Wellbeing Study were studied. These participants were issued with questionnaires which they filled between 2013 and 2015.

The questions they were asked dealt with how often they drank and the amount of alcohol they consumed. But this wasn’t their first time to fill the questionnaires because they had completed them almost 5 to 10 years ago when they were almost aged 13.

From the 62, 35 of them were classified as heavy drinkers. These drank more than four times per week. Some also did not drink frequently but when they did, they drank enormous amounts of alcohol.

Light drinkers live a happier life

The 27 teenagers who were grouped as light drinkers did not depict any signs of mental illness and depression.

Both the heavy and light drinkers were faced with equal level of anxiety, drug use and personality disorders. But the heavy smokers faced a higher rate of smoking cigarettes compared to the light drinkers.

But after subjecting all the study participants to brain scan, the composition of the gray matter varied significantly. The volume of gray matter in the heavy drinkers was smaller as opposed to the light drinking group.

The affected areas are the right superior temporal gyrus, the bilateral anterior cingulate cortex, the right insular cortex and the right orbitofrontal and frontopolar cortex. The frontal part of the brain is responsible for assisting people make decisions as they develop up to the age of 20.

As the youths drink, they expose themselves to a “vulnerability window” where they are likely to get addicted substance abuse. Apart from that, the heavy drinking may damage the brain and make the drinking behavior worse. Other secondary problems like missing school and unsafe sex begin to set in.

Brooks wrote in an email that “Parents and teachers must be alert to the vulnerability window during adolescence, and seek help as early as possible, to prevent more serious damage to the brain.”

In addition to this, Heikkinen said that the teenage years are vital in brain development and alcohol can tamper with that.

Finally, for the heavy drinkers who are drinking too much alcohol may suffer more and more like breathing, heartbeat and gag reflex thus causing coma or even death. So, stop drinking right away and check cpr and first aid certification course because it is best to realize.

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