Experts know that drinking during the teen years can result in a plethora of short-term consequences, but a new study finds that negative long-term effects can also linger into adulthood.
According to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, binge drinking during the teen years can lead to psychological problems later in life, and possible alcohol abuse in adulthood.
The researchers found that lasting brain changes occurred due to the effects on a protein necessary to form and maintain brain cell connections in the amygdala. The amygdala is key to mood regulation, including anxiety and fear.
The study examined the amygdala tissue of deceased individuals who began drinking heavily before the age of 21, people who began drinking after the age of 21 and individuals without a history of alcohol abuse.
The findings were startling. Researchers found that those who began drinking prior to the age of 21 had irregularities in the brain not observed in the other two groups.
Study author Subhash Pandey explained that a crucial protein required for normal brain development, and for neural connections, had been altered due to the effects of alcohol abuse.
According to Pandey, “If levels are lowered due to alcohol exposure, then the brain will not develop normally, and we see that in these brain samples where there are abnormalities in another synaptic gene, ARC, possibly making abnormal connections between neurons.”
There is Hope
In layman’s terms, the effect of alcohol abuse early in life raised the risk for psychological impairment later in life. This was due to adverse changes in the adolescent drinkers’ amygdala, which later was correlated to a higher risk of emotional problems.
For example, negative emotional states including anxiety, stress and irrational moods were suffered in greater numbers among the group of subjects who began drinking early, as compared to the other two study groups.
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