New Study Claims Adolescent Drinking Alters Adult Behavior

11 Jun

Here is the shocking first sentence of a recent study abstract:  “Binge drinking is common during adolescence and can lead to the development of psychiatric disorders.”

Furthermore, binge drinking during adolescence may alter brain development during this important time, leaving lasting effects on genes and behavior that will continue into adulthood. In a recently published study in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Medicine provided alcohol to rat subjects on-and-off in two day increments during their adolescence. Then, they observed them during adulthood. The rats given alcohol displayed much higher levels of anxiety than the control rats who were not given alcohol during development. Also, when given the choice between alcohol and water during adulthood, the rats given alcohol during adolescence drank more alcohol than the rats in the control group.

When researchers looked at the brains of the rats in the study, they found the rats in the alcohol group had higher levels of a protein called HDAC2 in the part of the brain called the amygdala. Previous studies have linked elevated levels of HDAC2 in the amygdala to higher levels of anxiety and alcohol-drinking behavior. This suggests that alcohol exposure during adolescence activates the gene/s responsible for increased HDAC2 expression.

Lead study author Dr. Subhash Pandey, a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Neuroscience Alcoholism Research at UIC writes, “This may be the mechanism through which adolescent binge drinking increases the risk for psychiatric disorders, including alcoholism in adulthood… On-and-off exposure to alcohol during adolescence altered the activity of genes needed for normal brain maturation… [The gene alterations] increased anxiety-like behaviors and preference for alcohol in adulthood.”

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