What happens at a party doesn’t just stay at the party, according to new research.

In fact, heavy alcohol use or binge drinking during adolescence and young adulthood can actually alter brain structures and function, leading to reduced cognitive abilities and an increased risk for developing alcohol use disorder.

Heavy drinking during adolescence: Dire effects on the brain

What would a celebration be without alcohol, whether we are talking about a private or professional event? Drinking alcohol, is a well-ingrained and long-standing social habit in many countries around the world, even though the fact that alcohol has an impact on one’s health is largely established, especially when it comes to heavy drinking.

In particular, adolescents are known to enjoy their drinking games and nights-out without worrying much about the effects alcohol can have on their health. In fact, drinking in high quantities is common during adolescence with nearly 25% of high school seniors in the US reporting that they got drunk in the last 30 days.

The effects of heavy drinking among young people on the brain have been looked at closely in a mini review published in Frontiers in Psychology by Anita Cservenka, Assistant Professor at Oregon State University.

“Adolescence is a time when the brain still matures, including not only biological development but also maturation of psychosocial behaviors,” says Cservenka. “Given the increase of binge and heavy drinking in young people, understanding the effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and the impact on cognitive skills is very important.”

Binge or heavy episodic drinking means four or more standard drinks within a two-hour drinking session for females, five or more drinks for males. The review highlights existing research that examines the harmful effects of such drinking habits with a view to inform future studies.

Binge drinking and the brain

“We looked at six areas to determine the deleterious impact of heavy drinking on brain response, namely: response inhibition, working memory, verbal learning and memory, decision making and reward processing, alcohol cue reactivity, and socio-cognitive/socio-emotional processing,” Cservenka says.

The review establishes that binge drinking among young people is associated with a thinning or reduction of areas of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, language, awareness and consciousness, which include cortical and subcortical structures. Taking learning and memory as an example, studies have shown that heavy drinking leads to a deficit in the ability of young people to learn novel words, which has been linked to changes in brain activity.

(Article continues below ad)

Looking to the future, “these brain alterations, as a result of heavy alcohol use during adolescence and young adulthood, could result in increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later on in life,” says Cservenka. “It is therefore important to continue raising awareness of the risks of binge drinking and to promote future research in this area.”


See books created by our team in the Myria shop!


About The Author

The Myria Editors

Myria, originally launched in 1998, strives to deliver more conversation, and less gossip. More intelligence, less eye-rolling. More acceptance, less judgment. And throughout the site: more needle, less haystack. Through life's ups, downs, and everything in between, we want to encourage you, support you, and help guide you. The team behind Myria understands that status updates and selfies never tell the whole story, and that we all have stuff to deal with, and that's nothing you need to hide here. Beyond "been there, done that" - every day, we're still there and still doing it. That's how we know: You've got this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Read previous post:
The strange, everyday way you could still be exposed to BPA

Assuming you don't buy products with bisphenol A, you should be able to avoid BPA exposure, right?

Close